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Voices of Maui

By Staff | Apr 25, 2013

You can complain about shoddy parks or lack of sidewalks all day (function of government), but one thing you cannot complain about is the magnificent Maui Arts & Cultural Center. And it is even more magnificent when you know more about it.

Clients and friends of Lahaina financial wealth manager Janet Casco, one of the MACC’s early supporters, were brought together recently for an illuminating tour hosted by dynamic CEO Art Vento.

As a young man, architect Vento was associated with a Florida cultural center and had no intention of winding up on Maui.

With an ulterior motive, MACC founder Pundy Yokouchi invited Vento for an all-expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii and had him review plans for the MACC.

Within weeks, Vento was on the job as construction project manager and has never left, rising through the ranks to his present post.

Planners wanted to build the very best small market arts and cultural center in the nation, and apparently they have achieved just that. For one thing, no seat in the MACC main theater is more than 90 feet from the stage.

The design includes mostly curved surfaces that are kinder to the enjoyment of sound. Big, loud air conditioning systems could be a distraction, so the MACC put in giant unseen ducts and tunnel-like trenches hidden beneath the seats to flow air up instead of down.

Air is dispensed from devices called mushrooms below the seats. Patrons are surrounded by cool produced by soundless air conditioning, not even realizing the ingenuity behind it.

This jewel of an arts center has attracted dozens of the nation’s iconic performers. It has also become the home of screenings of Academy Award movie nominees – one of only five such venues in the world.

The MACC’s involvement in education is extensive – too big a subject to cover here. Another plus has been its contribution to the revival of Hawaiian music and culture through its many programs arranged by Kumu Hula and Cultural Director Hokulani Holt.

Although the MACC sells 150,000 to 200,000 tickets a year, its many programs still need financial support from donors – generous ones of the past and new ones.

The MACC is also supported by the county – a quid pro quo that sometimes helps the economy. The MACC sought an Elton John appearance for 15 years, and had to add a second show after he was finally corralled. Thousands of attendees, including many from Oahu, contributed an estimated $4.8 million to the economy.

Elton John resisted a MACC appearance for 15 years, because he did not want to appear under a “tent,” the cover for the main stage for the 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that had been there for years. Building a new outdoor pavilion – though not specifically for him – sealed the deal.

The pavilion got a special design, too. Portions are topped with translucent glass, and other sections are clear so that diners can see the stars. Side panels can be moved up and down to create special effects.

From a Lahaina point of view, there is only one problem: the MACC is not in Lahaina. Going often to concerts can be a bit much, considering the drive over the Pali.

Perhaps the MACC needs an angel to sponsor a special center culture bus. It could also use more members and more donors (go to www.mauiarts.org for information).

IWI TO THE SEA: In a recent column on a ceremony restoring the grave of ali’i Kale Davis, Kahu David Kapaku noted that Hawaiian burials are different, but he didn’t say how. It is a myth, he said, that Hawaii iwi (bones) were hidden, so those who found them could acquire their mana (life force). Mana, he said, is not transferable.

So, where are the iwi? The Hawaiian identity, he explained, relates closely to the sea and the journey Polynesians made to land here. It is identified not only with the sea but with the first step on the ‘aina (land).

In some cases, without an entourage of grievers, remains were carried up the mountain and dropped into special pits connected to underground lava tubes. The iwi would make their way through the tubes and back into the sea – the point of arrival of their ancestors.

With ancient burials located near the sea, it’s a challenge for developers who want to build near shorelines. State law requires that an archeologist be present on big projects to be sure the iwi are created with the greatest respect.

No one knows where the bones of King Kamahemeha the Great are, and thousands of Hawaiians who preceded him.

This column would like to hear from you! E-mail norm@voicesofmaui.com.