In 1978, an artist living on the beautiful, tropical island of Maui had limited opportunities to show his or her artwork. The Lahaina Arts Society was the biggest arts group at that time, and would have one-person shows in their newly renovated Old Jail Gallery (labor provided by George Allan). There were also supportive local galleries, art shows at the Public Library, and the chance to win a 1st place ribbon in the big annual art show at the County Fair. Many artists still felt a sense of isolation in not knowing where their work stood in comparison with the work of other artists from the big cities.
In the late 1970’s a group of professional artists here on Maui decided to start a juried art show. At that time, tourism and the thrust toward big hotel development was just becoming a focal area for Maui’s business community. Miriam Fendler, a woman with a vision, plus great connections in Maui county government, wanted to put together a one-time art show to encourage Visitor interest in art collecting on Maui. Miriam contacted Janet Allan, then Manager of the Lahaina Arts Society, and Janet pulled in the energy of artists Marian Freeman and Richard Nelson.
This core group quickly decided that it would need an entire year to pull all of their ideas together in order to make an annual juried show happen on Maui. Thus the seeds were planted for the first Art Maui of 1979. The founders wanted to develop seminars geared specifically towards training issues, concerning shipping, publicity and other topics that would help new artists. A film festival of 32 art-related films was planned, which ran also in the following four years concurrently with the show. There would be networking opportunities for the artists coming to planning meetings, and a chance for their work to improve by submitting it for jurying.
The idea met a very positive response from Maui artists. They willingly sought a juried show to stretch towards a more professional level in their work.
One of the long-term goals of having a juried art show on Maui was to expand attitudes about what was considered fine art. The idea was to encourage “authentic work,” art that would be real for the artist, and yet something to which a viewer could relate.
A number of ideas were discussed to encourage the collecting of art. The commitment of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to purchase from the show made a strong statement to promote local artists. The idea of the Purchase Pledge became essential to the success of Art Maui. A small group of local collectors would promise each year to purchase art from the the show. This led to twelve sales at the first show, including purchases by the State Foundation.
The implementation of a Publicity Artist Award, started in 1985, began over ten years of Art Maui posters, and now there are Art Maui cards and postcards. Art Maui’s publicity images have been seen in National art magazines, as well as on Web pages.
Art Maui intends to be at the forefront of fine art development in our island future. There are important questions being asked about what artists will be doing in the future, and how the advent of computers will affect how we see art, make art, and promote art here on Maui. Art Maui will be there, surfing that new wave of the internet, and supporting local artists for the next twenty years and beyond.