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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 30, 2001

Kailua establishing strong cultural presence on O'ahu

Jodi Endicott's sculpture, "The Gathering Place."

Photo courtesy Jodi Endicott

By Virginia Wageman
Advertiser Art Critic

Kailua, on O'ahu's windward side, is often described in tourist publications as a sleepy bedroom community, its major attraction being its magnificent beach and the onshore trades, which make it the windsurfing mecca of O'ahu.

In recent years, however, the town, O'ahu's third-largest, has acquired a cultural presence that almost overshadows the surfer reputation. There's an excellent independent bookstore (BookEnds), and there are at least two good coffeehouses and a number of restaurants, ranging from plate lunch to haute cuisine.

The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has long supported public art in Kailua, most of it sculpture at public schools. (What other state can boast such prominence given to art?)

Kailua's public art has also been enriched by private commissions, especially by money from Kane'ohe Ranch Co. for outdoor sculpture projects.

A walking tour of Kailua public art can start at the new Foodland at H?m?kua Drive and Hekili Street. Here, Jodi Endicott's sculpture "The Gathering Place" is sited at the corner, near the road, partially occupying a roadside bench. On the bench and scattered around it are Endicott's delightful bronze depictions of marsh birds.

The sculpture refers, of course, to O'ahu's nickname as the Gathering Place but also to the wish of the artist to make Kailua more of a place for the kind of social interactions that can derive from walking about a town.

There are a moorhen ('alae 'ula), a coot ('alae ke'oke'o), three ducks (koloa maoli), and a stilt (ae'o). (Limited-edition castings of Endicott's marsh birds are available from the Cedar Street Galleries in Honolulu.)

You have to look for the bronze stilt at the foot of the bench, and at the same time you should notice the stilt feet that were marked in the paving material while it was still wet — a nice touch that should appeal to children.

The sculpture takes its theme from the Kawainui Marsh that lies across the road from it. All of these endangered birds can be found in the marsh, often the destination of field trips for schoolchildren.

From the Foodland, it's a short walk to the First Hawaiian Bank at the intersection of Kailua and Ku'ulei roads. Here Charles Watson's carved stone "Hua" (Seed to Bear Fruit) is a majestic presence next to the bank.

A walk down Ku'ulei takes you to the Public Library, which is wonderfully decorated with the murals of Linda Oszajca on interior walls. This project, supported by the Friends of the Kailua Library, was recently completed while the library was closed for renovations.

One mural, extending the length of an 85-foot-long wall, is high up to allow room for bookshelves. This one depicts Kailua Bay, with offshore islets and sailboats dancing in the surf.

The other, more complicated mural occupies the wall behind the librarian's perch, with a door opening to the library's office beyond. This piece had to take into account the doorway as well as openings through which the interior room can be seen.

An artful rendition of mountains and clouds, with a large tree occupying the foreground, this mural provides warmth, color and unity to what was previously a sterile, workmanlike space. Librarian Patty Meerians says she feels "much more tranquil" working in the newly decorated space.

A walk back up to Kailua Road, turning left toward the town's business district, takes you to the Times Shopping Center, where the Times Supermarket is decorated with splendid tiled pictures with marine motifs that date to the modern art style of the 1950s. Fortunately, when the shopping center was renovated, the tiles on the facade were retained (though in style they are totally unrelated to the 1990s shopping center look).

Across the road, at the corner in front of Starbucks on Hahani St., sits a two-piece sculpture consisting of a fish executed in mosaic tiles — an end-of-the-century reprise of the Times mosaics — as well as five canoe paddles. The sculpture is by Mike Field, and Leah Kilpatrick executed the tile mosaic following his design. Unfortunately, this piece is not labeled, or, if it is, the label is not evident.

Our final stop is on the opposite corner, where John Koga's cast concrete sculpture of two people (also not labeled) provides a strong foreground statement to Hahani Plaza, a small shopping center that occupies the corner.

Virginia Wageman can be reached at VWageman@aol.com.