Issue 20.1: February/March 2017
Native Intelligence: Maui

Meeting the Makers

Story by Natalie Schack. Photos by Tony Novak-Clifford.

A lot goes on behind the scenes at Roberta-Ann Weisenberg’s jewelry studio in Makawao, where she practices an ancient Etruscan metalworking technique to create wearable art from precious metals. Hunched at her bench, she labors over the placement of wee golden beads, carefully selects the perfect complementary gem or pearl and finds that subtle balance between fusing silver and melting it. Most of the time she toils alone. But once a year, during Maui Open Studios, she gives the public a peek at her delicate, precise methods—and an opportunity to snag a pendant or a pair of earrings at the same time.

Spread across three weekends in February, Maui Open Studios sends art lovers on self-guided driving tours around the island to meet artists, from plein air painters to printmakers to stone carvers—there’s even an artistic milliner. The artists create pop-up galleries in a variety of locations, including cafés, yoga studios, private homes and their own art studios. Some perform demonstrations, provide live music and offer refreshments.

“Each place has its own character and its own little thing going on,” says Carolyn Quan, a photographer who launched the non-juried, islandwide art show in 2011, inspired by similar events throughout the Mainland.

After a preview exhibition in Kahului, the event moves to a different part of the island each weekend. At the kickoff exhibit, art aficionados can scope out work by the sixty-some participating artists and pick up a guidebook to chart their tours. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” Quan says.

Throughout the free event there are opportunities to chat with the artists and hear about the struggle, training and inspiration that go into their work. In Kīhei, underwater photographer Sherry Ringer sets up a pop-up gallery in her carport, sharing the space with a potter who does wheel-throwing demos. Ringer likes the informality of Maui Open Studios and enjoys telling stories about her turtles, sharks, sea lions and other subjects. And from the standpoint of the art-loving public, she says, “It allows you to see the island in a whole different way.”