All About Art For Kids’ Sake

Isabella Dillberg

Isabella Dillberg at work | Photo by Kristy Maligro

Kristy Maligro and Shannan Morgan
Kauai UnderGround Artists (KUGA) Visual Arts Directors

How did you get started in this business and how long has it been going? KM: We’ve been friends for quite a few years now here on Kaua’i, but prior to our friendship we both have had a life-long passion for all things art. Our friend Lila Metzger started the nonprofit KUGA, Kaua’i UnderGround Artists, with Sara Ahn nearly a decade ago, planting seeds of creativity via dance, music and lyrics. We had tossed around the idea of starting some sort of art studio for kids for a long time. It was an idea that we knew would benefit our own keiki, as well as other youths on Kaua’i. Doors finally opened as we were given the opportunity to become the visual arts extension of KUGA last summer. The response was super encouraging and made it clear to us that we were moving in the right direction by sharing our love for art and keiki here on Kaua’i.

Where are you from originally and what role does that play in your business, if any? SM: Both of us are originally from Oregon, although we didn’t know each other there. We both were raised by parents who were, and still are, artists. Kristy Maligro, also known by her middle name Wren, got her bachelor’s in art at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., specializing in a secondary education art teacher preparation program. I spent much time as a child in a gallery where my father would paint wildlife in oil or watercolor with ink. My father gave me drawing lessons at home and passed on the knowledge that art is a way of expressing what is laid on your heart. After one year of majoring in special education at Western Baptist, I decided to take a different direction where I dove into every art class offered at a local community college. For many years now we both have created our own art for pleasure and income.

Shannan Morgan, Kristy Maligro

Shannan Morgan and Kristy Maligro at their studio. Amanda C. Gregg photos

What is your specialty?

KM: Art. We’ve opened an art studio for keiki and teens in Kalaheo for the purpose of providing various tools and the techniques for using them to give our students a broad foundation in visual arts. In the studio, our goal is to expose the students to as wide a variety of art skills and mediums as possible. Each session lasts about five weeks, and different classes specify in different areas of art. Each class is generally an hour. Some of the time is spent learning about a specific technique or artist, but most of it is diving in and creating art. We both have our own unique areas of expertise and style, which allows the kids a little different take on any given subject, depending on which of us is teaching at the time. For instance, Shannan excels at working with oils, pastels, reclaimed wood and sewing clothes. Her online shop is called, and much of her art can be found at Shannon Hiramoto’s Machine Machine Workshop in Hanapepe. My current focus is line art through graphic design, repurposing drift-wood, painting with acrylics, and working alongside my husband Kyle at our screen-printing shop in Kalaheo called Doxa Print. My online shop is, and I also have goods available at Shannan’s workshop in Hanapepe.

What sets your business apart? SM: It’s the environment cultivated in the studio – creativity is contagious. Sometimes we inspire them, but more often than not they inspire us. KUGA is more than just art. It’s a nonprofit, drug-and alcohol-free project committed to the development of children and teens in a positive and creative environment. We promote a clean and healthy lifestyle by words and actions. We value relationships to the fullest and strive to pull out the best in others. KUGA is family with family values. We desire to instill respect, integrity and love as we are sharing art with the young people of Kaua’i.

KM: Another aspect that sets us apart is we are constantly searching for and creating new projects to share with our students. We are not merely taking kids through textbooks of a typical art curriculum, but instead giving them the skills and confidence to create and discover their own unique styles of art. Although it is important to learn and glean from historical art, it is equally important that kids stay up to date with art. For this reason, in our winter session of textiles, our students got to learn old techniques like weaving and printmaking, and new techniques of designers, as well. Our students are fortunate enough to have two unique teachers so that all the art doesn’t come out looking identical. We will be there year-round working with these little artists and are very excited about upcoming classes we have in mind. We also will be adding workshops with local artists and designers to continue to bring in fresh ideas and creativity.

What motivates you to go to work every day? SM: Calling it “work” is funny because going to the art studio never really feels like work. It’s something we look forward to, and we are often found in the studio creating art, even when it’s not a workday. We’ve been blessed with a safe and soothing studio space, so it’s relaxing for us to prepare for and plan a class. It’s amazing to watch how each little artist interprets what we say and teach a little differently. Everyone is creative, and it brings us such satisfaction to see the joy in our students when they are proud of something they create, and it helps them tremendously in the long run. It is important to have the confidence to try, even if that might result in failure. Oftentimes these “failures” are simply the springboard to a better end result. Our students are given the freedom to fail and encouraged to problem-solve when unexpected results happen. These art lessons overlap into life lessons.