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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 5, 2004

Art blossoming on mural at Waimanalo library

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO — A transformation is taking place at the Waimanalo library that is turning the institutional building into something more inviting for children.

Oregon artist Tara Sullivan, right, and Kevin Philbrook will assemble 15 panels with a playful quality to create the 24-foot artwork.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Award-winning children's illustrator Tara Sullivan, from Oregon, is creating a 25-foot mural for the library in the next two weeks, adding color, whimsy and local life to a blank wall.

When completed, the design will have flora and fauna that have a connection to Waimanalo, as well as dolphins, birds, a hula dancer, and likenesses of famed surfer Duke Kahanamoku and Sullivan's grandson.

Sullivan said she's doing the mural because the kids in the community have captured her heart. They don't have a lot, but they're sweet, where big brothers and sisters look after the younger ones, obviously caring for one another, she said.

"I love the way they call everybody tutu and they're very respectful of elders," Sullivan said. "That's an amazing quality."

The mural, made up of 15 panels that were created and painted in Oregon, will have a playful quality that will dance across the wall, said Sullivan, 64.

The design is hers, but more than a half-dozen people helped cut out the panels, which will add depth to the mural, and paint them, Sullivan said.

"It's not just me by a long shot," Sullivan said. "It's going to a community but it's coming from a very broad artistic community. There's a whole (bunch) of people that did this, and I suckered them all in Tom Sawyer style."

In Hawai'i more people are helping, including Larry Roche, a general contractor, who will hang the panels, and Nina O'Donnell, acting librarian and children's librarian.

Students from Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate School swarmed to the library last week to see Sullivan and volunteer Kevin Philbrook outlining trees, clouds and waves with pens before they start to paint. Excited and curious, the students jockeyed to get a better view.

"We can just sit here all day and watch this," said Alohilani Loretero-Whitney, 10. "I like art."

Beverly Dumot, 10, said that more children will come to the library to see the mural and she hopes other people will come to see it too.

"It's beautiful," said Dumot after seeing panels that had been prepared ahead of time and shipped to Hawai'i. "It reminds me about Waimanalo and it's like a gift to all of us, to Waimanalo school."

In fact the mural is a gift, worth about $35,000 and paid for by the artist and her daughter Elizabeth Fien, who is president of the Friends of Waimanalo Library. Fien said she will seek money to reimburse the artist for the cost of materials and the $1,000 it cost to ship the panels.

Fien said her mother volunteered for the project after attempts to find a local artist failed.

Ever since Fien moved to Hawai'i nine years ago, Sullivan's visits have been filled with learning more about the Islands and helping at the library, Fien said. Sullivan "was here with us when we did the fight to keep the library open on Saturdays," she said.

Last year, amid budget cuts, most libraries eliminated their Saturday hours, but Waimanalo was spared after widespread community support. A Verizon grant essentially pays for programs that are held on Saturday.

O'Donnell, the acting librarian, said she's thrilled that the project is getting done because people have been talking about doing it for three or four years.

"The building is very institutional and we wanted a focal point for the children's room that would be beautiful and interesting," O'Donnell said. "As you can see, the children are fascinated by the process."

Kelsey Enanoria, 9, said she liked the abstract quality of the mural where clouds and water connect and that it depicts Hawai'i.

"I don't see many Hawaiian things, only at Waikiki," Enanoria said. "I think we should be thankful. They're doing it for us and we haven't had somebody do something like that for us for a long time."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.