The day I visit the Molokai Arts Center, Betty West is teaching a kūpuna ceramics class. Betty was one of the founders of the center, which grew from an idea discussed at the local pizza café by locals — mostly seniors — who felt the island needed a place to nurture the arts. Between 2010 and 2012, the group incorporated as a nonprofit, raised funds and applied for grants, and were offered a home on the property of Coffees of Hawaii in Kualapu‘u.
The class in progress is one of the activities offered on Moloka‘i by Alu Like, a nonprofit whose mission is to help Hawaiian Natives achieve their full potential. One of the students, Darlene Johns, describes for me the process of taking the raw clay and fashioning it ready for the first firing to produce a bisque, which is then glazed and fired in the kiln again to create the finished item.
Dan Bennett, also a co-founder, is quick to acknowledge the role volunteers play in the organization: “If we didn’t have volunteers, this place wouldn’t be here. Different people volunteer their different expertise and services.” The center is also very open to ideas for classes suggested by students or to anyone who would like to share their skills by teaching.
A popular stained glass class came about in just that way — a student suggestion and the discovery that several people on the island had experience with that art form. Recently, the center was gifted a treasure trove of panes of colored glass. It’s the center’s connection to the community that enables it to flourish.
Each year, a juried exhibition of members’ works is shown at a reception open to the local community. Of the 36 exhibits at the 2018 event, 22 were created by seniors, who can attend any of the center’s adult classes and its workshops.
Board member Paula Scott feels that “retirement should not equal stagnant. Retirement should equal learning new things, seizing the opportunity.”
“My philosophy is that people are infinitely creative,” Dan says. “It’s just a matter of jumping into it.”
MOLOKAI ARTS CENTER
808-567-9696 | www.molokaiartscenter.com