Building self through art


POSTED: Saturday, November 28, 2009

There are those who believe creativity necessitates complete freedom. No parameters, no strings.

Those who carry that impression would do well to talk to the Morinoues, a family of Big Island artists long committed to creativity—both their own and that of hundreds of youths—and its place in cultivating responsible, productive, forward-thinking individuals.

Husband-and-wife artists Hiroki and Setsuko and daughter Miho Morinoue all work at the Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture, which Hiroki and Setsuko helped found in 1994. There they have developed and continue to teach through art programs that double as character education.





        On exhibit: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and until 6 p.m. Fridays, through Feb. 19

Place: The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center, 999 Bishop St.


Call: 526-0232


Also: Miho Morinoue will give a talk on First Friday, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the gallery.




The trio is also exhibiting work at the Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center. Hiroki's collection features paintings, prints and sculpture. Setsuko is showing ceramics and mixed-media paintings, while Miho presents acrylics on canvas, woodblock prints and mixed-media drawings. Miho will be giving a talk about her family and their work during the First Friday gallery walk (see box).

Under the umbrella of the Holualoa foundation, the Donkey Mill Art Studio houses a print studio, ceramic studio, gallery and children's department. But the Morinoues say the art is simply a vehicle for deeper lessons.

“;It's an education center,”; says Hiroki, who serves as artistic director, a full-time volunteer commitment. “;It's not for artists or to create artists.”;

“;It's more for education that helps young people (develop) into self-sustaining individuals,”; says program director Setsuko, also a full-time volunteer.

The center's biggest effort toward that end is a signature, five-week summer program that runs five hours a day, five days a week.

“;It's a big project and a big commitment for parents, since the vacation is only six weeks. That way, we only get the ones who are really interested,”; Hiroki says with a laugh.

“;We saw we could provide conceptual-based teaching. When I say conceptual, the ideas come from the individuals,”; Setsuko explains.

IN THE PROGRAM, students find an idea to develop, and they use it to tell stories about themselves, learning about such concepts as color and 3-D art. But they're also developing “;3-D thinking,”; which supports flexibility in problem-solving, says Setsuko.

Students start with basic line drawings of themselves during the first week.

“;We build on the first week of the self. That starts a ripple that goes out to the larger and larger community and then returns back to the self,”; she says.

Born and raised in Japan, Setsuko says students of her era were “;very different.”;

“;They were so well behaved,”; she says. “;Here, it's 'me first' and 'someone else's fault.' Simple things are lost. We want everyone to have a sense of value and respect.”;

From that perspective, she sees her family's work as “;gifts to the next generation.”;

“;We work for the community as servants. We're modeling the way to be part of the community,”; Setsuko says. “;This program offers freedom with responsibility.

“;This is not about how to make things,”; she stresses. “;It's about creating people who are imaginative and creative, with hearts that are full and happy ... who take opportunities to reach their goals.”;

OPENING THE CENTER was a way for Hiroki to put back into the community that nurtured him. A lifelong Holualoa resident, he says he owes his art career to Bob and Carol Rogers, founders of the now-defunct Kona Art Center.

“;I was one of their first students, back in 1966, and they encouraged me to move on. I haven't stopped since,”; he says.

Hiroki aimed to re-create the Kona center, which he joined as a teen, with an added focus of a children's program.

Today, he says, “;When I teach, I learn as much as I teach. There are always surprises, and that's where I learn the most.”;

Miho, who spent 11 years in New York City as a contemporary ballet dancer, didn't have to leave home to receive her lessons.

“;I grew up producing art,”; she says. “;In New York if I wasn't dancing, I would be painting or designing costumes. I don't know anything else. The people I met throughout my childhood were all artists. They were people who knew how to be inspired and opinionated.”;

Hiroki says Miho has “;natural talent,”; but she also picked up her parents' strong work ethic.

“;Artists must be disciplined,”; she says. “;My dad was always working. He was always searching, always doing. I learned that at a very early age.”;

And it's that motivation to learn and do that Miho thinks is important to instill in her students.

“;Immediately, when I began dancing, I began listening to the music, watching dancers, studying at home. I had opinions. That process of self-teaching is really important in Hawaii, where we're so isolated. You really have to feed yourself and engage.”;

Miho is currently in the classroom with three other teachers, offering ceramic, printmaking, drawing and painting instruction, and she enjoys it. But when she first returned home in late 2005, she wasn't so sure.

“;When I first started, I thought I would hate kids, but I like it. After three days it was 'Auntie! Auntie! Auntie!'”; she recalls with a chuckle. “;They're like sponges. It's a great environment.”;

Hiroki says its “;fabulous”; to be part of a family of artists. “;It's a way of life we enjoy,”; he says.

For Setsuko the meshing of art and community seems natural.

“;This has been my vision, since my parents were always community teachers,”; she says.

Miho finds the Morinoue exhibit to be especially poignant, saying it illustrates the fruits of her mother's lifelong dedication to her family.

“;Her art was her family,”; Miho says. “;She put her own work aside to support her husband and raise her kids, so we're her artwork. Maybe the show isn't (significant) this way for everyone, but for me we're her show.”;