Janet Meinke-Lau

Art and Surf Blog

Conversations around the process of creating and being an artist and surfer.

When art can help bring change

First - a quick announcement: The Ka 'Ike o ka Moana exhibit is on display at the Honolulu Hale until June 14th. If you live in town and haven't seen it - check it out! A lot of really amazing art featured there. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of the invite-only exhibit, and to be interviewed and quoted in the 6/3/18 Star Advertiser Sunday paper, Currents section. In the article, I talk about.. surf and art (hah, no surprise).

Now onto today's topic.

Last November, I had the pleasure of being hired to create six commissioned watercolor paintings for and of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, located in the bucolic hinterland of Kailua (OK, it’s not really that far out, but it’s beautiful there!).  The illustrations were used in the The Kawailoa Youth and Family Wellness Center (KYFWC) Programmatic Plan - a report for the State legislature introducing new programs for juvenile justice reform in Hawaii. 

"The programs outlined in this plan are aligned with restorative justice practices, which support youth in healing past trauma, repairing their relationships, and developing their sense of self and self-efficacy in order to walk a pono and successful path. The transformation of facilities and practices into ones of healing holds the potential to interrupt the cycle of incarceration. The aim of Kawailoa and its suite of programs is to provide culturally- grounded, strengths-based programs in partnership with communities and families."

I conducted two site visits and drew in pencil and pen on-site, and painted the sketches at home. My first pen sketch was of an existing barn and horse with Olomana in the background. This area will be turned into a Vocational Training facility. It was pretty meditative to sit on my stool, hear the cattle "moo" to my right, and watch the horse give me uninterested looks to my left. I later added a youth attempting to touch the horse. As this was the first sketch, I was a bit hesitant and looser.

Before going onto my next assigned building,  I took a quick pitstop to do a contour line drawing of the lovely bovine.

"The KYFWC program will be housed in a large, open area of land to connect ʻōpio to the ʻāina and culture through activities such as growing, harvesting, cooking, using and caring for native plants (e.g., kalo). "

Using the backdrop of open land at the mauka side of the property, I created a vision for traditional hales on the land.

I also sketched various existing buildings which will be renovated as facilities with new programming.


Hale Lanipōlua

The plans for this building is to turn it into a facility for the recovery of commercially sexually exploited children.

The purpose of my illustrations was to help readers (aka state legislators) to visualize the transformation of the facilities. And I think I was successful! My client told me that the proposed bill to transform the grounds of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility was passed this Spring!

"We all agree that the vision could not have come to life on paper without your illustrations and the feelings they invoke... You contributed to the movement in a big way. It's true you need everyone's collective gifts to bring about change."

Best feedback ever. 

Both events/assignments have shown me that art can truly help bring about change, and how meaningful it is for me to participate in it. Whether it's to remind people of the importance of the ocean or to help viewers reach into their imaginations and visualize something different.. art can help us to do better. My biggest thanks to the amazing people who helped me realize this lesson, and gave me the opportunity to contribute my gifts as an artist.

Janet Meinke-Lau