Na Opio art on display at the Waimea Firehouse Gallery

  • First place 12th-grade winner Aloalii Iona with his Mixed Polynesian Art entry. (Photos by Jan Wizinowich/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • First place eighth-grade winner Kaya Long with her entry.

  • Wendi Roehrig opens the show with encouragement for young artists.

The reception for the annual Na Opio art contest and show took place on Sunday at the Waimea Arts Council Firehouse Gallery. High school and middle school student artwork from North Kohala to Honokaa will be on display through March 29.

Teachers and family members gathered with students who received first, second and third place prizes and the recognition of their talents by the community. The artwork on display is a creative array of 3D and mixed-media pieces.

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Na Opio coordinator and retired Parker School art teacher, Wendi Roehrig opened the show with advice and encouragement for the young artists.

“Do what you want to do and if people don’t like it, it’s okay. Art is for everybody and if everybody did the same thing, it would be boring and this is not a boring show,” she said. “You guys have done a tremendous, tremendous job.”

The Na Opio art contest was established 36 years ago by Waimea Arts Council members as a way to encourage art in the schools. Submissions from all middle and high school students within the Kohala and Hamakua districts are accepted.

This year’s contest included Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s middle and high schools; Parker Middle School, Waikoloa Middle School and Honokaa High School.

“Art is a basic human need to express oneself and it’s a different kind of learning. People involved in the arts also excel academically because they know what it’s like to apply themselves. You’ve got to practice, practice and practice,” Roehrig said.

This year’s judge is Janice Gail, long-time Waimea Arts Council artist and teacher.

“I like to make sure I get judges who have experience with student artists,” Roehrig said. “We have a guide based on five factors: originality, balance, unity, personal expression and execution of medium.”

Prizes for first, second and third place for each grade level are awarded with students receiving high-quality, adult art supplies.

“We try to give prizes that nurture creativity. Many of my past students have pursued careers in art and they had their one person show after they entered the Na Opio,” Roehrig said.

Art class offerings have come and gone with changing educational philosophies.

“There was a time when the focus was just on reading, writing and arithmetic but then they started introducing art back in the schools in the ‘90s and it really saved some at risk kids,” Roehrig said.

Art teachers see the positive effects of art everyday in their classrooms.

“Art reaches the whole child and encourages creative and critical thinking. Kudos to our principal for really pushing art,” said Waikoloa Middle School art teacher Trish Bryan.

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“It helps them express what they’re thinking and feeling in a different way. It’s so awesome to see the students work so hard and get recognition for their work. And even if they don’t pursue a career in art it helps them to think creatively and problem solve, overcome difficulties and to even see failure as an opportunity,” said Sally Lundburg, HPA upper school art teacher.

For more information and for gallery hours: https://www.waimeaartscouncil.org.

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