The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation will present a Preservation Award to the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center and Maui artist Kirk Kurokawa for the mural wall he produced for the center. Kurokawa painted the larger-than-life mural wall using ordinary house paint. His work on the mural was featured in a story by contributing writer Melissa Tanji in the Herald’s 2019 Maui issue.
The foundation’s annual preservation awards program was originally scheduled for April, but has been postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A foundation news release said the mural wall was recognized as “an educational resource reminding the public of a significant event in Hawai‘i’s history and how it impacted the Maui community. It is a reminder of what these men stood for and the sacrifice that is made as a result of war.”
After visiting the site, Selection Committee member Adriane Truluck commented: “The Nisei Memorial is accessible to the general public, both physically and in terms of its presentation and content. . . . Wordlessly and with striking imagery, it conveys an empathetic portrayal of the Nisei veterans, connecting today’s audience, be it descendants, residents, or visitors, to the veterans and their experience.”
The mural wall was nominated by Maui architect Jim Niess, who recognized its artistic value. “Because these images were originally taken prior to [the use of] color photography, the artist reproduced them as the black and white originals, which adds a subtle touch to its powerful imagery, giving the mural a true sense of integrity and connection to the past,” Niess said.
Kurokawa added pink flowers throughout the mural to symbolize cherry blossoms as a cultural symbol of hope and renewal. He said art has the ability to “reach and speak to everyone no matter who they are and where they may come from.”
“. . . [P]ublic art,” Kurokawa added, “has great potential to bring a community together and to remember our history.”