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The Aloha Update: Hawaiʻi’s vibrant arts & culture scene 

You know Hawaiʻi for its impressive landscapes, broad range of activities, and friendly locals, but how familiar are you with their arts and culture scene? Use this informative guide to match your clients to the best of the Aloha State's lively arts & culture scene. Whether art connoisseurs or casual observers, Hawaiʻi’s vibrant art scene captivates and inspires. 

You know Hawaiʻi for its impressive landscapes, broad range of activities, and friendly locals, but how familiar are you with their arts and culture scene? Use this informative guide to match your clients to the best of the Aloha State’s lively arts & culture scene. Whether art connoisseurs or casual observers, Hawaiʻi’s vibrant art scene captivates and inspires. 

At the recent SXSW Sydney event, Micah Kamohoaliʻi took centre stage at USA House. A celebrated kumu hula, master of traditional kapa art, and innovative fashion designer (Dezigns by Kamohoalii), Micah shared his journey from his Hawaiian roots to becoming the first native Hawaiian designer at New York Fashion Week. His success highlights the growing impact of Hawaiian arts and culture on the global creative landscape. 

Gaining inspiration from the islands in colour, light, and shadow, Hawaiʻi’s artists express the visual poetry they see across their motherland. Through paint, print, sculpture, etchings, and photography, artisans and craftspeople create masterpieces that are both timeless and timely. Their work is coveted by galleries, collectors, and travellers around the world.  

Discover Hawaiʻi’s traditional arts

Applying a traditional Hawaiian tattoo ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman / @hbgoodie
Applying a traditional Hawaiian tattoo ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

Native Hawaiʻi represents their rich culture. Whether it’s feather work, kapa (bark cloth), petroglyphs, wood and stone carvings, or tattoos, these are meticulously crafted and never merely decorative. They are created and invested with deep meaning, serving practical, social, and spiritual purposes. 

Traditional tattooing is experiencing a renaissance today. The designs, researched to connect to the wearer’s genealogy and social hierarchy, are hand-tapped into the skin using a needle, instilling the wearer with spiritual power. 

Delve into Hawaiʻi ’s contemporary art scene 

Early Western explorers in Hawaiʻi brought artists to capture the captivating landscapes. The Volcano School emerged, with artists like Jules Tavernier, Louis Pohl, and Robert Dampier painting vivid depictions of the islands.  

In the renowned Art Deco period, Arman Manookian and Eugene Savage created inspired pieces, while Georgia O’Keeffe produced stunning floral paintings during her visit in 1939.  

Today, Hawaiʻi boasts a diverse array of artists and photographers, many celebrating Native Hawaiian culture. Kamea Hada (co-director of Pow! Wow!), creates captivating murals, Marques Marzan weaves traditional art into modern wearable pieces, and Solomon Enos explores Hawaiʻi’s future through mixed media.  

Unlock Hawai’i history & culture at local museums 

Interior of the Volcano Art Center ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aeder
Interior of the Volcano Art Center ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aeder

For inspiration from the island’s history, culture, and art, head to the museums. Oʻahu’s Bishop Museum is the largest museum – and premier Pacific institution - dedicated to studying and preserving the state’s history.  

In the heart of historic downtown Honolulu, Capitol Modern is a vibrant hub to appreciate the diversity of Hawai‘i art. Admission is free to experience its exhibits, events, and relaxing outdoor sculpture garden. Capitol Modern is another worthwhile space for art, hosting artists-in-residence with its ‘Passion on Display’ program. The talented Solomon Enos was its first recipient. 

For a multi-cultural hub, the Kauaʻi Museum is a hit. With galleries displaying artists, sculptors, and craftsmen and exhibits about the island’s geology, monarchy, and early native life, it offers visitors a broad experience. 

For your clients who love to give back, recommend the non-profit Volcano Art Center. Nearly 50 years old, located on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s border, this is a mecca for local artists, craftspeople, and historians. The centre’s goal is to preserve and present ancient and contemporary artwork. 

For a solely modernist experience, the Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) has the largest fine art collection in Hawaiʻi (and one of the single largest collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art), plus an impressive art-house theatre. 

Hawaiʻi’s  lively annual events 

Artist works on Pow! Wow! Hawaii artwork ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Maurice Berbano
Artist works on Pow! Wow! Hawaii artwork ©Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) / Maurice Berbano

There are some fabulous events across the year that celebrate Hawaiʻi’s culture and arts.  

  • MAMo is more than an event; it’s a movement. Celebrating native arts, artists, and practitioners, Maoli Arts Month (MAMo) now includes exhibitions, art markets, shows, and the extraordinary MAMo Wearable Art Show.   
  • Pow! Wow! Hawaiʻi For nine years, Pow! Wow! has entertained with its annual street festival in Kakaʻako. This event sees top local talent and contemporary global artists unite on Oʻahu. Kakaʻako’s striking murals make for an exciting walkable street gallery to explore, too.
  • Honolulu Triennial Every three years from February to May, artists from Hawaiʻi, the Pacific and the Americas, unite for the Honolulu Triennial contemporary art showcase. It’s a riot of activity and colour across Honolulu. The next one will be held from 15 February – 4 May 2025.
  • Hanapepe Art Night A beloved Kauaʻi tradition, Hanapepe transforms on Friday evenings into a vibrant celebration of art, music, and community. As the sun sets, this charming town comes alive with open-air galleries, bustling shops, and lively restaurants. 

Learn more 

Hawaiʻi’s flourishing arts and culture scene is a testament to the islands’ unique beauty and cultural richness. As your clients make time to explore galleries, shop in arts and craft markets, and meet local artists, they gain deeper cultural insights.  

To discover more about art, culture, and events across the Hawaiian Islands, visit Go Hawaiʻi

To read about accessible travel here, check this out.

Want to stay up-to-date on all Hawaiian Island happenings? Head to gohawaii.com/au

Agents, check for destination updates and important intel here.