With the opening of the new Kauhola Art Gallery at the Polynesian Cultural Center, (if they didn’t know before they arrived) our visitors quickly learn how artistically inclined some PCC employees are in fine and traditional Polynesian arts.

The Kauhola Art Gallery, which will hold its grand opening on July 27, 2018, is located in the PCC Welcome Center, across from Prime Dining venue. Its hours are from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The backstory

PCC manager William Mahoni, a fine artist who works at enhancing the Center and our guests’ experience, explained we used to have an employee art gallery in the 1990s, and that several other employees have been selling their creations through the PCC’s retail operations, Samoan ambassador Kap Te’o-Taifiti being a current example.

According to Mahoni, several years ago PCC president and CEO Alfred Grace began discussions to revive the idea. “We wanted to help prepare some of our student employees for things they might look forward to as artists after they graduate from BYU–Hawaii.”

‘Unfurling talents’

Those discussions turned into the Kauhola Art Gallery concept. “Kauhola in Hawaiian means to unbundle, unravel, or to unfurl, the latter typically referring to a sail on a voyaging canoe,” Mahoni said. “In the case of the gallery, we’re excited that we can take our artists’ interpretations and ‘unfurl’ their thoughts and creativity.” He cited several examples:

Hand-etched ukuleles in the PCC Kauhola Art Gallery

Samples of Sam Mangakahia’s hand-etched ukuleles in the Kauhola Art Gallery. Photo by Mike Foley

  • Sam Mangakahia is a New Zealand Maori raised in Australia “who’s done a fantastic job of doing beautiful designs on ukuleles.”
Fijian masi in the Kauhola Art Gallery.

Kalivatu Volavola’s traditional Fijian masi (or bark cloth) art pieces in the Kauhola Art Gallery. Photo by Mike Foley

  • Kalivatu Volavola from the Fijian Village imports traditional masi [bark cloth] from his mother’s home island of Vatulele and “has also created some beautiful masi designs.”
Tane design pieces in the Kauhola Art Gallery

Samples of Tane Falevai’s two- and three-dimensional art pieces in the PCC’s new Kauhola Art Gallery (with one of Tuione Pulotu’s large-scale wood carvings in the background). Photo by Mike Foley

  • Tane Falevai, a Tongan who has acted as Mana in the PCC’s evening show, “has done some beautiful two- and three-dimensional pieces.”

Soon to include community artists

“More PCC artists and pieces will be added; and we’re also going to reach out to our alumni and community artists who may want to participate,” Mahoni continued. He intends to include Fatu Leauanae, a Food Services employee, and Tuione Pulotu, a Tongan master carver and one of the original labor missionaries who helped build the Polynesian Cultural Center in the early 1960s.

In addition, Mahoni pointed out that several PCC alumni have already created their own success in the art world. For example, in 2015 the PCC commissioned Leroy Transfeld, a New Zealand Maori who now works out of his studio in Utah, to sculpt the heroic-sized statue of Hamana Kalili, the Laie-born originator of the Hawaiian shaka sign, as well as Laie-born Joseph Kekuku, father of the Hawaiian steel guitar.

“We’re excited we have our new gallery,” Mahoni said. “Stop by. We know you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at the depth of our employees’ artistic creativity.”

Story and photos by Mike Foley, who has been a full-time freelance writer and digital media specialist since 2002. Prior to that, he had a long career in marketing communications, PR, journalism and university education. The Polynesian Cultural Center has used his photos for promotional purposes since the early 1970s. Foley learned to speak fluent Samoan as a Mormon missionary before moving to Laie in 1967. He has traveled extensively over the years throughout Polynesia, other Pacific islands, and Asia. He is mostly retired but continues to contribute to PCC and various other media.