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Lahaina Arts Society to celebrate 50th Anniversary

By Staff | Oct 19, 2017

KAANAPALI – Join Lahaina Arts Society for an evening of food, fun and entertainment, as the organization celebrates 50 years.

The event will be held on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.

Selling for $150 per person, tickets are on sale until Oct. 18. Admission includes a dinner buffet and entertainment by Uluwehi Guerrero, Barefoot Minded, Kalapana Collars and Kuikawa. Call (808) 661-0111 or buy tickets online through Eventbrite.

Long before Lahaina became a go-to destination for international art collectors, Lahaina Arts Society began exhibiting the work of Maui artists under the Banyan Tree and in the Old Lahaina Courthouse.

Now, LAS is celebrating 50 years of creativity, community and opportunity.

When artist George Allan arrived in Lahaina aboard the Carthaginian in 1973, he had no idea how Maui – and more specifically, Lahaina Arts Society – would change his life.

Within minutes of his arrival, strolling through town, Allan encountered a group of artists under the Banyan Tree.

These members of LAS befriended Allan, inviting him to paint with them and gifting him with materials to use during what was supposed to be a two-week vacation.

“These artists had fun, worked together and supported one another,” recalled Allan, who had run a ski shop in Europe before his arrival.

Charmed by his new community – among them his future wife, Janet – Allan extended his stay, indefinitely.

“I asked my friends back in Europe to sell my car, my possessions and my business,” said Allan, “and I never looked back.”

Lahaina Arts Society has played a similar role in the lives of many artists, both newcomers and Maui-born, offering fellowship, support and exhibition opportunities.

Decades before Lahaina became a world-renowned destination for art collectors, the artists who founded LAS, including Alexandra Morrow, Tim Morrow and Joyce Clark, sold their work under the Banyan Tree and along the seawall.

In 1967, after the Post Office moved out of the Old Lahaina Courthouse at 648 Wharf St., LAS petitioned to use the office as a gallery.

Fifty volunteers transformed the space, and LAS celebrated the grand opening of its first gallery on March 19, 1969.

Like the shows under the Banyan Tree, the new gallery became a gateway, welcoming emerging artists to show their work alongside those with established careers.

“LAS connected me with the art world on Maui. I have been exposed to venues, shows and galleries I would never have known, not to mention the work of 80 other people,” said Board President Eric DeMaria.

Participating in LAS art shows inspires Board Member and Curator Amy Justen.

“The opportunity to exhibit original work on a monthly basis keeps me motivated to continue creating, innovating and trying out new concepts and ideas,” she said.

Michael Stark, a member for 25 years, said selling artwork through LAS allowed him to transition out of his career as a biology teacher “to explore a full-time art career which still supports my family today.”

Given the power of LAS in these artists’ lives, it’s no surprise the organization grew rapidly. Led by Allan, in the mid-1970s LAS sought permission to expand the gallery space.

Once again a group of volunteers came together – this time to clear out the abandoned jail cells in the courthouse basement, replacing the jail’s dark history with Maui’s vibrant art.

Both galleries remain open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the Outdoor Fine Arts Fairs continue under the Banyan Tree several days a month, offering Lahaina visitors the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind works of art crafted by Maui artists.

The spirit of generosity, hospitality, mentorship and volunteerism that Allan first encountered in the 1970s thrives in the organization today.

John Cesere of Cesere Brothers Fine Art Underwater Photography said, “LAS has been a great place for us to grow, learn and train as artists. We’ve picked up tips on sales, presentation and the business side of being an artist.”

Many successful art careers have grown from LAS’s rich soil: Betty Hay Freeland, Bruce Turnbull, James Warren, Janet Stewart, Jan Shaner, Michael Clements, Joyce Clark, Macario Pascual (the first recipient of an LAS scholarship for high school students) and Ronaldo Macedo.

Early in Macedo’s career, LAS provided “an opportunity to meet prospective collectors and talk about my work,” he recalled.

“At the time I applied to be a member, I was pretty intimidated about galleries. After four years with LAS, my confidence had increased enough for me to approach galleries and keep taking my work to higher levels.”

Lahaina Arts Society’s reach extends far beyond this circle of artists. LAS hosts events for the greater Maui community and supports the Lahaina Arts Association, which partners with organizations such as the Department of Education, Hawaii Housing Authority and Boys & Girls Clubs to bring art opportunities to Maui County youth.

Executive Director Erin Brothers explained, “LAS provides office space, exhibition space, volunteer time and so much more to ensure we continue fostering a new generation of Maui artists.”

LAS member Mark De Colibus noted, “LAS is an expression of what aloha is all about. It is an extension of the beauty of Maui, not only through its ocean, sunsets and mountains, but its people – its ‘ohana.”

Visit Lahaina Arts Society in the Old Lahaina Courthouse or at www.lahainaarts.com.