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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 9, 2002

Whales displaying new kind of beauty

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — It's a little early, but whale-watching season is in full swing on Maui.

Lena Castles and her daughter, Sierra, 2, enjoy whale sculptures embellished by West Maui artist Charlie Lyon at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center in Kahului. The statue is one of 30 pieces on display on Maui.

Timothy Hurley • The Honolulu Advertiser

Don't worry about getting seasick or paying large sums for a close-up view. Instead of plying the 'Au'au Channel, these whales are cruising Maui's shopping malls and hotel lobbies.

They are 7-foot fiberglass works of art created for Whale Mania Maui, a charity fund-raiser by Soroptimist International of West Maui.

There are 30 commissioned whale statues in all, created by artists such as Wyland, Robert Lyn Nelson and Guy Buffet, among others.

Most of the whales already have been installed in public places across the island and will be on display throughout the whale-watching season.

On March 15, the artistically embellished whales will be sold at an auction at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Half the proceeds will go to the charity of each artwork's sponsor and the rest to local causes benefiting children, art, educational and environmental groups.

One might describe this event as the Pacific extension of the "Animals on Parade" global art movement that started in Europe four years ago.

To find out more

For more information, go to the event's Web site.

That's when Swiss artist Beat Seeberger-Quin persuaded city officials to display 815 hand-painted or decorated life-sized fiberglass cows along the streets of historic Zurich.

The contemporary craze soon landed in America, where dozens of cities have put on their own public art displays, including "Cows on Parade'' in Chicago, "Art on the Half Shell" in Tampa, "Horse Mania'' in Lexington, Ky., and the "Big Pig Gig" in Cincinnati.

On Maui, event co-chair Kim Willis came up with the idea, having seen the success of "Horse Mania'' while living in Lexington.

"It was such a fun event — and successful,'' she said.

The 79 horses on display in Lexington netted $750,000 for a local art fund. In Chicago, the public auction raised $3.5 million.

Willis said the Soroptimists are hoping the whales — which are adorned by everything from chic clothing to island landscapes — fetch an average of $10,000 each.

The group is now preparing a map showing where each whale is.

"It's really fun for a lot of people,'' said Willis. "I'm always being told what their favorite are. People are already asking for tickets to the auction."