Issue 20.2: April/May 2017
Native Intelligence: Maui

Kaluanui’s Centennial

Story by Shannon Wianecki. Photos by Zach Pezzillo.

For one hundred years the Kaluanui estate has been a fount of creativity. In 1917, missionary descendants Harry and Ethel Baldwin inherited the twenty-five-acre property in Ha‘ikū, Maui, and contracted their cousin, celebrated architect C.W. Dickey, to design a home. Dickey created a thing of beauty, a mansion with Mediterranean archways, interior courtyards and his signature hipped roof. Elegant outbuildings included a stable for Harry’s polo ponies and studios for Ethel’s art.

Ethel, a suffragette and tireless philanthropist, experimented with artistic media from embroidery to metalsmithing. She taught herself to paint, draw, mold clay and hammer silver into beautiful vessels. When she needed expertise, she invited international artists to stay at Kaluanui in exchange for lessons. In 1934, she founded Hui No‘eau, a club (hui) for her clever and artistic (no‘eau) friends. That club is still going strong as the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center. After renting Kaluanui for several decades, the hui purchased the estate in 2005. The Baldwins’ living room became an art gallery, while their bedrooms became classrooms and quarters for visiting artists. The outbuildings house printmaking, ceramics, metalsmithing and glassblowing studios. Ongoing classes run the gamut from plein air painting to crafting Hawaiian kapa (bark cloth).

The vintage estate is anything but stuck in the past. Visiting artists regularly come to share new techniques. Take printmaker James Bailey, for instance, who invited schoolchildren to make giant linocut prints with the help of a steamroller. Or sculptor Patrick Dougherty, who built a fantasy dwelling out of strawberry guava branches, then left the piece to evolve over time as it decayed on the grounds.

To celebrate the estate’s centennial, Hui No‘eau will host a summer exhibit, a festival with interactive art stations and a retrospective featuring longtime hui supporter and artist Judy Bisgard. When Bisgard got involved with the visual arts center thirty-odd years ago, Maui did not have a university like it does today. “We needed a place we could take college-level art classes,” she says. “I’ve learned so much here. The hui has been a great source of inspiration.” Ethel’s influence is still felt; her silver holloware will be displayed. “It’s absolutely exquisite,” says Bisgard. “It could hold its own with any silver anywhere.”