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Artist commissioned to install work of art on the LHS campus

By Staff | Mar 12, 2015

To gain inspiration for a sculpture he will create at Lahainaluna High School, artist Randy Shiroma recently toured the campus, interacted with students and got a feel for the Lahaina community.

LAHAINA – Carved into the mountainside 500 feet above the Pacific, Lahainaluna High School is distinctive. It’s one of the wonders of the West Side, and we are blessed to have this historic, 121-acre homegrown treasure in our backyard.

Now, there’s another reason to celebrate our local heritage.

The public school founded in 1831 has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (HSFCA) to install a work of art on campus, and a panel of five has selected Randall (Randy) Shiroma as the artist.

Trisha Lagaso Goldberg is the project manager of the Art in Public Places Program for HSFCA.

She told the Lahaina News that the Art in Public PlacesArtists in Residence Program (APP-AIR) was founded in 1997 as a collaboration between the Department of Education and the HSFCA, and it was “created to strengthen the HSFCA capability to ‘stimulate, guide and promote culture and the arts, history and the humanities’ through the field of visual arts.”

Randy Shiroma's works include "Song of Whispers III."

Three schools per year are granted a maximum of $100,000 each to engage the services of a professional visual artist.

The Lahainaluna grant was co-authored by Nancy Young and Bill Lewis.

The two other schools receiving grants in 2014 were Pukalani Elementary School and the Innovations Public Charter School in Kailua-Kona.

The APP-AIR process from selection (of the artist) to installation (of the art piece) can take from 18 months to two years.

The first step is the appointment of a five-member Art Advisory Committee (AAC) consisting of the school principal (Emily De Costa), teacher (Nancy Young), student (Alicia Pena), community member (Priscilla Gonzales) and SFCA commissioner (Michael Moore).

One of their first tasks was to select the artist; it was a democratic exercise.

“As a committee, we viewed 20 candidates; and, out of the 20, we picked our favorite. We tried to pick a piece that would show more history, that represented Lahainaluna and what showed the nature and the campus,” Pena explained.

Pena’s favorite was Shiroma.

“I really liked his art; the natural rock sculptures fit into the land,” she observed.

Born and raised on Oahu, Shiroma graduated from Kalani High School in 1969.

“I did my undergraduate (studies) at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and my Masters at San Jose University in California,” he said.

He currently resides in Volcano on the Big Island.

“This is my second commission working with the state foundation,” he noted.

His first was an 11-foot high, three-and-a-half-ton terrazzo sculpture installed at Ka’u High and Pahala Elementary School in September last year.

Trained in clay as a ceramicist, his current preferred medium is stone, he told the Lahaina News.

“My work is always referential to the land. If you want to refer to the land, one of the easiest materials to work with is stone. The association is already there. It is just incredibly beautiful,” he commented.

Governor-appointed SFCA volunteer Maui Commissioner Michael Moore of Old Lahaina Luau is pleased as well with the selection of Shiroma by the AAC.

“The Artist-in-Residency program is an area I have been most involved with,” Moore said.

“Lahainaluna is an iconic institution. While steeped in history, the committee did not want the art to be stuck in the past but also wanted something monumental and appropriate to the stature of the school, its location and importance. I was personally thrilled that the committee chose Randy. His medium allows for a large piece, and I think his work will reflect the desire of the committee.”

Selecting the artist is just one of the APP-AIR phases.

“Each school is able to identify not only the artist, but the spirit they wanted reflected in their piece,” Moore described, adding, “the educational component is clearly of great value as well.

“I especially appreciate that the first teaching phase is done before an actual proposal for the commissioned work is submitted,” the community leader continued. “This way, the artist gets to know the school and the community beforehand and then returns to teach once the proposal has been accepted… many times, the students are actively involved in the actual creative process.”

As Artist-in-Residence, Shiroma recently was on campus interacting with the students in the classroom and with the community down the hill.

“One of the things they ask of the (SFCA) artists is to work with the students. The reason why is that it gives them some kind of feedback – some kind of feel for the school and the community,” Shiroma said.

From the students, he asked for two paragraphs to help him assimilate.

On the last day of this phase in the classroom, he thanked the students for their participation: “You have been my eyes and ears. You have been a major source of the inspiration for the work that I am thinking about, and I will continue to think about for the next few months.

“So the stories that you have written – those paragraphs – are very important. Most of them deal with the sense of community of this area. I think Lahainaluna is special. It’s not only the history of the place; it’s not only the physical beauty; it’s more than that.”

“There were stories that were really quite wonderful. Some had to do with Hawaiian scary stories, you might say. A lot of them had to do with the sense of family over here – the sense of community – and I think that was the major theme.”

Art teacher Jennifer Valenzuela lauded Shiroma’s talents.

“I think anytime the students have diversified experiences, it’s positive. It was nice that they had someone other than me introducing them to different elements of art, different ways of thinking about it and different ways of creating it. He has a totally different style of teaching than I do; he’s very soft and kind – very kind and really joyful. I loved his experience with the kids and that positive energy; it really affected the students in terms of their openness and their disposition around art in general,” she said.

Shiroma has returned to the Big Island.

“I am processing the information. The process needs gestation. I need to sit on it,” the artist commented.

A concept will later be presented to the AAC.

“They hear what you have to say, and they will have comments about it. You’ll take that back, and you’ll make your final presentation and a model. Then, after that process, if it is approved, it goes into the actual preparation for construction,” Shiroma explained.

Moore is an advocate of arts in education.

“I think it’s critical – even if they (the students) are not destined to be traditional artists – that our young people are engaged in the creative process and learn and work with that perspective,” he said.

“Even in our small business, we are constantly working on creative solutions. I think we are very fortunate to have SFCA working towards those goals. We were the first state with a program like the one percent for art special fund (from which the school program is funded),” the West Side entrepreneur said.

The community can meet Shiroma on April 2 at the Parent Information Night in the Lahainaluna High School Library at 6 p.m.