Since the native Hawaiians were skillful and resourceful craftsman, many of the works of art today reflect ancient Hawaiian crafts. For example, the Hawaiians would beat bark from the wauke (paper mulberry) tree, soak it in the ocean, then repeat the time-consuming process to create the woven cloth called kapa. The bark becomes supple and easily woven into beautiful cloth often with rich colors and symbolic designs about nature and life. Though they are few, a select group of kapa artists still exist, devoting their lives to preserving this Hawaiian tradition.
By using the natural elements around them, the Hawaiians would also make lauhala by weaving the large green hala leaves together in beautiful patterns for shade, shelters, hats, baskets or floor mats. Another ancient tradition was to design for the Hawaiian royalty intricate arrangements of hulu manu, adornments made from ornate bird feathers that were delicately woven into headdresses, leis or capes. The ancient Hawaiians would also carve koa wood into tiki figures, wooden paddles, smooth bowls, hooks, utensils and even saw-like weapons with shark-teeth.
As tourism began to increase in Hawaii, an influx of westerners and Asians came to the islands, bringing their unique artistic influences which would become a part of the greater Hawaiian melting pot of culture. Every island reflects this diversity, highlighting traditional Hawaiian artistry, modern art and the work of local artists. On each of the Hawaiian Islands, tourists can find galleries and museums filled with compelling contributions to the Hawaiian art culture.
Best Museums and Galleries by Island
Oahu: Oahu draws the largest crowd of tourists and travelers to the capital city of Honolulu and visitors can expect a wide variety of museums on the island. Some of the best places to view and purchase art include the: Hawaii State Art Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Cedar Street Galleries, Island Art Group, Sunshine Arts Hawaii (in Kaneohe), Makaha Art Gallery (in the Makaha Valley), Honolulu Printmakers, Pegge Hopper Gallery, Hawaii Craftsmen, Uhl Studios Hawaii and Bishop Musuem.
Maui: Historic Lahaina has the Lahaina Museum Shop, the Whalers Village Museum and the Wo Hing Temple Museum. Other artistic Maui hot spots are the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku, Hana Cultural Center and Museum, Hana Coast Gallery and Maui Arts Cultural Center. There are numerous galleries in Lahaina and Ka’anapali areas. Paia and the Upcountry areas of the island also have galleries where visitors can enjoy a wide range of art forms such as at the Paia Contemporary Gallery, Viewpoints Galley Gyotaku Maui and Maui Crafts Guild. In Wailea, the Dolphin Galleries, NaPua Gallery and the Eclectic Image Gallery of Maui also offer unique art pieces.Kauai: Though Kauai is famous for its striking film locations and film tours, tourists can also enjoy art galleries and museums at the Grove Farm Museum, Koke’e Natural History Museum, Kauai Museum, Waioli Mission House Museum, Mark Daniells Galley and Ship Store Galleries.
Big Island: Hawaii natives and visitors alike can admire historic and modern works of art at the Hilo Art Museum, Hulihee Palace, Pacific Tsunamis Museum, Sachi Art Hawaii (in Kona), Waipio Valley Artworks, Wyland Galleries Hawaii (Kailua-Kona), Volcano Art Center and The Grove Gallery (in Hilo). For insights into traditional art, visit the Anna Ranch Heritage Center and the Lyman Mission House and Museum.
Molokai and Lanai: Visitors to Molokai can find a beautiful collection at the Molokai Fine Arts
Galley, while travelers to Lanai get to enjoy the Mike Carroll Gallery.