Every spring for the past nine years, POW! WOW! Hawaii puts on a street art festival that attracts hundreds of local and international artists to paint dozens of murals in Oahu’s urban neighborhood of Kakaako. It gets bigger and better every year.
This colorful event which is supported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, has reached critical mass over the years to the point where amazing murals have totally transformed this industrial neighborhood into a modern Honolulu attraction.
Named after a Native American term that describes a gathering to celebrate art, culture and music, POW! WOW! attracts some 50-plus global muralists each year who breathe energy by using auto body shop and worn-out warehouse exteriors as a canvas.
“Kakaako is home to the only open-air gallery in Hawaii that features some of the world’s best street artists,” says Jasper Wong, founder and lead director of POW! WOW! “It’s a great neighborhood to stroll and discover art, food, and an experience unique to Hawaii.”
Cooke Street marks the entrance to this walk-through gallery, shining with diversity and visual treats around every corner.
Here is just a small sample of the artwork.
KATCH 1 Wall
Here's a small sample of this huge wall. It's hard to tell from the picture but the artwork incorporates all sorts of lights, windows, doors, fans, pipes, and other random objects that are stuck to the side of the building. Viewers can actually elevate the impact by donning 3D glasses.
His Katch1 Wall has been wowing people since he created it in 2016. Here's a short video to help get a sense of scale. (You still can't see all of it.) You need to walk down the alley along the side of it to fully appreciate the detail.
SHEPARD FAIREY Wall
Shepard Fairely is a world-famous artist who's most famous for his Obama "HOPE" Poster and line of OBEY clothing. His work is included in collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
OG SLICK - Big Slick Aloha Wall
Slick's rise to the top can be traced back to the mid 80's, from painting on the streets of Honolulu to the mean streets of Los Angeles. Slick spent his early years attending Art Center College Of Design during the day and doing graffiti at night.
KAMEA HADAR - Parking Garage
This set of massive murals covers both sides of a large parking garage. Kamea Hadar is the co-lead director of POW! WOW! and designer/artistic director of Utopium, home of POW! WOW! Hawaii.
MATHEW TAPIA - Howzit!
Matthew Tapia is a self-taught graphic artist born and raised in Hawaii. During the past decade, he has honed his specialty in hand-lettering and design, working in New York and Honolulu for a diverse group of clients. No matter the project, each starts the same way: with pencil and paper, always by hand. His "Howzit!" mural has become an instant hit with people looking to take an Instagram selfie.
JAMES BULLOUGH & RICKY WATTS
James Bullough combines realist painting technique and graphic punctuation. Ricky Watts has more of a fine art graffiti style with ribbons of color in his work. They teamed up to create this surrealistic masterpiece.
PICHIAVO (Pichi & Avo)
Another team of artists. This Spanish duo is recognized for their ability to ignite relationships between art, sculpture, architecture, space, and social contexts.
Check out the POW! WOW! website for a full look at what's been painted in Kakaako so far. While you're going through the pictures, keep in mind that all the murals exist in a pretty small geographic area. The place is actually starting to fill up where about 1/2 the walls seem to be covered with huge works of art.