KAILUA-KONA — For the past three years, the Pua Na Pua Art Festival has created a space in town to showcase disabled Hawaii Island artists and their work, a privilege not all of them have been able to experience in the past.
“Often times, verbally, there’s a disconnect from galleries and to the artist’s ability to communicate,” artist Rose Adare said. “Myself, I don’t have that challenge, but I know that a lot of disabled artists do have that challenge, and it can be terrifying trying to talk to gallery owners or store owners about one’s art, even if one’s art is strong enough to be in a gallery. That communication aspect can be really challenging.”
The Pua Na Pua Art Festival hopes to bridge that divide between disabled artists and potential buyers. A collaboration between Full Life Hawaii, Abled Hawaii Artists and the Donkey Mill Art Center, the festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lanihau Shopping Center in Kailua-Kona. Retail booths from both disabled and non-disabled Hawaii Island artists will be set up so they can showcase their work at a public event for all to see.
As a disabled artist, Adare believes the community exposure is important not just for those in attendance, but also so that other disabled artists can find out about the services they need to follow their artistic dreams. Adare said the festival has seen growth every year as more and more artists discover it and participate.
“There’s the whole aspect of is my art good enough?” Adare said. “And I think all artists have that, but especially when you throw in a disability on top of it, it compounds that challenge a bit more. And having something like this, where we can all come together and support one another is absolutely crucial.”
Adare lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder that affects a person’s connective tissue in the skin, joints and blood vessel walls and causes constant joint dislocations. Adare found a passion for art when at the age of 7, after failed attempts at sports, gymnastics and other activities that were hindered by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Adare called herself “tremendously hyperactive” at that age, and oil painting was a solution to finding an outlet for her energy while dealing with the disorder.
“My parents, they were just shocked that I would sit down, be quiet and I would focus,” Adare said. “They just threw me into that, let me do it as much as I wanted, and I became really good at it. I just stuck with it and it became my passion.”
Oil painting is Adare’s main medium for art, and is most known for portrait painting, as people are Adare’s muse. She said she always has been in love with painting people and the “diversity of the human spirit.” Her lifelong pursuit of creating art is a way to manage her disorder, where she only finds relief in painting.
“Because with EDS, you have a lot of pain, as you can imagine with your body dislocating all the time, it’s kind of painful,” Adare said. “When I paint, it’s the only time I don’t feel pain. So, I paint a lot to kind of offset that.”
For the Pua Na Pua Art Festival this weekend, Adare will be showcasing the Mahalo Nui Loa series, as well as paintings of the island’s native animal species such as the pueo and Hawaiian hoary bat. Many of Adare’s paintings that will be showcased were created specifically for the festival.
Last year, Adare created the Kipaipai Art Foundation, a nonprofit art school in lower Puna, which works closely with Abled Hawaii Artists to have easily accessible art classes for the disabled on Hawaii Island. Adare credits Abled Hawaii Artists as the reason she has been able to find success in Hawaii’s art world, and she wants Saturday’s event to do the same for her fellow disabled artists.
“I’ve been with Abled Hawaii Artists for I think eight years now, and they’ve changed my life,” Adare said. “They’ve allowed me to be more present with my art, more secure in who I am and be more visible as a disabled artist. Often times, I would try to hide the fact that I was disabled as an artist, and through them, it really gave me the encouragement to embrace that side of myself, and to be proud of the full spectrum of who I am.”
Info: The Pua Na Pua Art Festival is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lanihau Shopping Center, and along with the art, the event will also feature craft workshops, a silent auction and an appearance by Santa Claus. The event is free to attend, and proceeds from the silent auction will benefit Full Life Hawaii, Abled Hawaii Artists and the Donkey Mill Art Center.