Pow!Wow! Signature Hawai‘i Event

Feb 12, 2020

Over a hundred artists are converging this week for Honolulu’s tenth annual Pow!Wow! street art festival. Key locations will have fresh new works of art as live painting continues all this week along the streets and byways of Kaka‘ako. Best of all, a generation is growing up in Honolulu with paintings by internationally renowned artists all around them.

Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

“Looking back ten years ago, no one spent time in Kaka‘ako. There was no one there. You would only go there to go to Fishers, right? You either buy back-to school supplies, or maybe back then it was like Comp USA.”

Pow!Wow! street art festival founder Jasper Wong has talked to about every property owner in Kaka‘ako, checking for available walls--he says most are small local businesses.

“All of us know each other, we all work together, we all support each other and even as new businesses pop up, they try to find ways to include the arts.”

There are more than 330 murals, mostly concentrated in the square mile area between Ward and South streets. International stars like Shepard Fairey, Woes, Defer attract selfies with their walls, and a new generation of street artists is being minted in the islands.  2017 in Taiwan, Secret Walls collaborated for a live 90 minute street art battle. In 2019, Pow!Wow! festivals happened in seven cities including Venice, Italy, and Washington, D.C.

“Every city we’re doing the project in, it gives back to the communities, it helps to grow local industries, it helps to promote and give platforms to artists and helps to connect people to other artists around the world.”

Stop by in Kaka‘ako, artists are working on walls every day through Saturday. I happened on artist Solomon Enos on a ladder at the Flats at Pū’unui condo.

“Basically what I would be doing with a piece of paper is what I’m doing with this wall,” says Enos. “Except that the paper is much larger than me now!”

That is not the usual process. Most huge murals are fully mapped out, then projected on a wall, outlined, then filled in.

“I like the frustration,” says Enos. “I like the challenge of starting it with these raw ideas and having to make mistakes, and having to make changes.”

Each painting can take from 20 to more than 40 hours to accomplish. Enos says he’ll be adding in color at the end of the week.

Pow!Wow! still runs on volunteers, with key support from sponsors including Hawaiian Airlines, HTA, Heineken, and Alohilani Resorts.  LA’s Thinkspace gallery has again curated a show in Kaka‘ako, the POW! WOW! Schools of Music and Photography are underway. Look for local break dancers battling in the Endless Summer Jam Friday and Saturday nights. Sounds like a well-oiled machine.

“You know I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest thing,” says Pow!Wow! co-founder Kamea Hardar. “There’s still a lot of convincing and a struggle to keep certain support. But definitely the public appreciates it, especially during Pow!Wow! you really have to be there to experience it. I’ve experienced it ten years now, and I can feel it in my bones growing. You can really feel the energy.”

All Pow!Wow! events are free, including the grand finale block party at Honolulu Night Market this Saturday. Here's the schedule.