Thursday, February 1, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, February 1, 2001

Using the arts to save the world

By Mike Liedemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Howard Shapiro has this sort of old-fashioned, new-age idea: Art can save the world.

Shapiro, a songwriter and musician who lives on the Big Island, doesn’t just believe it. He lives it.

Since 1986, his Performing and Fine Artists for World Peace nonprofit organization has been working quietly to make the world a better place for everyone. It promotes and organizes small-scale events most of us have never heard about.

Ultimately, Shapiro thinks, that’s the way you change the world. If we can fix things in Anahola or Hana, maybe things will be better in Honolulu, or Helsinki, too.

"We started back then on Kauai as a peace group," he said the other day in a phone call from Volcano. "It was still the days of the Cold War." Whenever he or friends performed on the Garden Island or around the state, they always had a message with their music.

"We never put on an event that didn’t have an issue," he said. "It was never just about the art or performing; it was always something that the artists had to feel good about, too."

Sometimes just a few people showed up. Sometimes a few hundred. It didn’t matter.

"Art is best done in small places, small groups," Shapiro said. "Sometimes in a place like Oahu the message gets swallowed up by all the congestion. It’s nobody’s fault, just the way it is."

Somewhere along the way, Shapiro moved to the Big Island and his message got a lot broader.

"How can you separate peace from the environment, hunger, Hawaiians, human rights, children issues? How can they not all be united as one? Everything is all interconnected, and art is one way to show that to people."

That’s why these days Shapiro is most actively involved with a project called "Caring for the Earth Month." Since 1996 he has helped coordinate an April calendar listing earth-friendly projects and events conducted by schools, business and government agencies in Hawaii and around the world.

Last year, dozens of events were on the April calendar, everything from lectures on coral reef-building to beach cleanups, from recycled-art shows to electric vehicle races.

This year, Shapiro is hoping for even more. He has opened a call for groups to register their earth-friendly events. "Individuals, businesses, schools, churches, clubs and other community groups can sponsor music and art festivals, beautification projects, recycling campaigns, tree plantings and workshops that take place in April," he said.

Shapiro compiles the listings on a Web site and invites people to participate in as many as possible, using whatever art and means they have at hand to help save the earth and change the world.

To register an event, call or fax 808-985-8725 or e-mail the information to

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