COURTESY STEPHANIE ARTIS
Ron Artis' mural on the wall of Aloha Termite & Pest Control was based on an old photograph showing horses crossing Lake Wilson.
Artist dips town’s history in paint
Colorful murals by Ron Artis cover walls throughout Wahiawa’s neighborhoods
Dozens of paint cans, a mixer, brushes, sponges and a whole lot of energy and creativity are the necessities of Ron Artis' work.
The local artist has been busy trying to re-create the charm of old Wahiawa by painting murals throughout the town.
"You hear the nightmare stories about Wahiawa, but there is lots of history buried underneath it," Artis said. "Wahiawa feels like it's been forgotten ... has forgotten attitudes. I want to remind people that Wahiawa was once one of the most beautiful places on Oahu. ... It's all about reintroducing people to themselves."
Artis began the beautification venture as a community service when he agreed to paint the side wall of Sunny Side bakery. Police officer Jerry Scoville backed the project, tired of the graffiti and tags on the wall of the vacant lot behind Sunny Side. The property owners granted permission to paint the walls, and the neighbors pitched in for the paint and supplies, Scoville said.
COURTESY STEPHANIE ARTIS
The artist works on a painting of a horse.
"Ron and I got talking about some of the other walls in Wahiawa," he said. "We wanted to have historical paintings, not just pretty pictures. He really tries to match the murals with the town and the people."
Once that project was finished, calls started pouring in with requests for commissioned works. Three months later, Artis has painted more than 25 murals around town.
Scoville believes that Wahiawa has a lot to offer. "We want to give people a different perspective of Wahiawa. The historical murals give the old-timers something to talk about, and the kids can learn about the history of their town."
Artis' murals along Ohai Street are painted on back walls of businesses, displaying rainbows and dolphins - a theme chosen by the neighboring residents. In other areas, the murals display elaborate ocean and valley scenes.
"I've been listening to the people and reflect the parts that they want remembered," said Artis.
On the side of Aloha Termite & Pest Control, a mural captures horses crossing Lake Wilson.
Shawn Murray, owner of Aloha Termite and a member of the community business board, said the image reflects Wahiawa in 1905 and is taken from an old black-and-white photograph titled "Crossing into Wahiawa."
"I paid to have an ocean/beach scene painted on the other side of the building, and it wraps around the back," he added. "We can't see the back, but it gives the neighbors (on Ohai Street) something to look at."
Artis said he plans a mural honoring the military for the Top Hat bar on California Avenue. "I'm going to paint images of three soldiers in the clouds that represent WWII, Vietnam and Iraq," he said.
"Top Hat took the first shots of the Pearl Harbor attack, so there is lots of history there. Every little place in Wahiawa has stories like this one, bringing out the good side."
Although Artis can always be found painting, he's never dabbled in graffiti, he said. "I never scribbled-scrabbled on walls. I've never been frustrated or had urban problems."
Artis teaches his 11 children to be in tune with their creative outlets. They often help paint, and perform in the Artis Family Band.
"Every facet of communication comes from being creative," he said. "Talent is like water: It can be poured into anything."