CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu high school students show their artwork for the first time in "The Young Hopefuls" exhibit at thirtyninehotel. A few of the artists are, above, from left, Neal Uno (Punahou), Brook Power (University of Hawaii Lab School), Kalei Luna (Hoala School), Honour Booth (Kalani High), Brandon Ells (Hoala) and Ayme Ueda (Palama Settlement).
High school artists get a taste of what it's like putting their creativity out for public view
Less than one hour remains before the start of June's "First Friday" festivities in Chinatown, and Hoala School senior Brandon Ells is starting to get nervous.
"The Young Hopefuls"
» Place: thirtyninehotel, 39 Hotel St.
» On view: Through July 15
» Hours: 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays
» Admission: Free
» Call: 599-2552
After three months of planning, he's just about ready to unveil "The Young Hopefuls," an exhibition of artwork by 10 students hailing from a variety of local high schools.
"It's been a really last-minute push," he says during a pause in the last-minute preparations. "My last day of school was (May 31), so I had finals and stuff along with setting up the show all this week."
Ells' frenetic pace is balanced by the ambivalence of the other students seated on couches at thirtyninehotel, where the exhibition is being hosted until July 15. Two are lying down, eyes half closed, appearing more prepared for a nap than an opening reception. Another student primps in a corner, changing her clothes and applying makeup in anticipation of the group pictures about to be snapped.
Just like the art hanging on the walls, the students' demeanors speak volumes about their views of a world outside school walls. Ells hopes that "The Young Hopefuls" will open others up to the experiences young people today have to face, while at the same time providing an optimistic outlook for many of those who are participating in an exhibition like this for the first time.
"THE ORIGINAL idea came up a little more than three months ago," said Ells. "I started interning here in November ... and (thirtyninehotel co-owner) Gelareh asked me if I wanted to do a show. From there we went with the idea of an all-high-school artists show."
With a few basic guidelines and words of encouragement, Ells shouldered the brunt of responsibilities associated with opening an exhibit. He started by printing 200 fliers to request submissions from students around the island, which resulted in entries from schools like Kalani, Kahuku and Punahou in addition to Hoala School.
Once Ells had his artists on board, he began a public relations campaign to get the word out about the exhibition. But the hardest part was coordinating everyone's schedules and getting the prep work done at thirtyninehotel.
"This month, I've been here almost every day," he said, "but I'm really looking forward to this."
FOR FELLOW Hoala School senior Kalei Luna, "The Young Hopefuls" opening reception provided the perfect venue for her artistic voice to be heard.
"I think it was a really good opportunity to show what you've got and see the response," said the 17-year old, who plans to attend the Kansas City Art Institute this fall.
"Just being able to speak out ... and have someone ask you about it is great. They can look at your stuff and have their own opinion about it, but being there to tell them what you meant makes it easier to understand."
Luna contributed three charcoal drawings to the exhibition, which focused on the conflicting messages that some adults send to the younger generation.
"A lot of it is people asking us what we want to do with our lives, and a lot of people telling us what to do with our lives," she said. "So my pieces are about, like, listening but not listening at the same time, or just blocking everything out and going for your own thing. Just by looking at them, you can see (the message) without having to think too much about the pieces."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kayla Fitzgerald of Kahuku High created digital media artwork titled, clockwise from top left, "Cut Throat," "Free Me," "Grow Up Now" and "We Hide."
"THE YOUNG HOPEFULS" marks the first time Punahou junior Neal Uno ever put his artwork on display for public viewing. His four oil-on-canvas paintings started with portraits of his classmates, which he embellished with phrases to help express how he perceives those around him.
"I'd begun working on them before I heard about the event," he said, "but then I crafted them to the theme. ... It was more my take on how I view my peers. It's just my kind of perspective on what adolescence is all about."
While he admitted getting involved in the exhibition was "just something to do" after a few buddies at school were talking about it, Uno was impressed by the turnout at the opening reception, along with the reactions of thirtyninehotel's older patrons.
"There was a pretty big turnout," he said. "This one woman came and even asked to take a picture with me!"