A Keiki Masterpiece In Princeville

A group of mostly first-graders from Kilauea Elementary brightens up a North Shore eatery while learning lessons in cooperation

Anew mural is turning heads at North Shore Grindz (at the Chevron Gas Station) in Princeville. What renowned artist created it?

Well, Kilauea Elementary School students – mostly first-graders – are the talent behind the new bright and colorful “Little Birds of Paradise” art display.

“People enjoy it, they think it’s cute and fun to look at,” says Dan Metsch, Princeville Center’s property manager.

Paintings of animals and trees, along with interactive birdhouses, are among the visual treats outside the North Shore eatery.

And without the help of art teacher Betty Jean Nativio, this masterpiece would not be bringing smiles to people’s faces.

The Parent Teacher Student Association instructor teaches art at Kilauea Elementary School and wanted to expose students to public displays by having them produce something as a team.

“I call it their spirit signature. They don’t have their names, but we all have our spirits involved,” says Nativio.

The display, which originally was suggested by Metsch to add some life to the formerly all-brown wall, gave Nativio an opportunity to teach her students how to look for shapes in objects when drawing or painting, and the birdhouses allowed the children to make the work more connected three-dimensionally with nature.

“I actually came here and saw a bird sitting on one of the birdhouses, and it made my day,” says Nativio.

She titled the work Little Birds of Paradise, she says, “Because those kids are my little birds of paradise. They are just the sweetest kids.”

Nativio always has loved the arts. As a child, from the moment she could hold something in her hands, she was drawing.

“I was born an artist and was very encouraged by my mother and father to pursue art,” she says.

Her first memorable experience producing art was a drawing on the wall of her home. Her father wouldn’t allow her mother to punish Nativio, and they left her work there. “Because he did not want to stifle my expression,” she says.

Growing up with 11 brothers and sisters, she says her parents excelled at bringing out the best in their children and empowering their minds to do what they love.

Aside from taking classes in high school and various workshops around the island, Nativio says she is largely self-taught. Since moving to the island in the 1980s, she has been producing and teaching art to adults and keiki professionally. Her style is expressionistic and she frequently uses bold colors. She even paints objects such as surfboards and shoes, and leads a workshop called School of Chocolart, which mixes chocolate with art. So it’s really no surprise that her unique, whimsical style continues to attract children and enhance their creativity.

Nativio is proud to amplify children’s imaginations, especially in an age where television and computers dominate people’s lives, and art has lost its handmade touch.

“There is a void in original art,” says Nativio, a member of Kaua’i Society of Artists. “There also is a beauty to things that take time to make.”

In addition, she likes to teach her students skills and techniques, as well as the history of art. She is grateful that schools such as Kilauea Elementary are allowing her the ability to bring these lessons into the classroom.

“They have a very good reputation and a very limited budget. It’s really wonderful the way they invite artists in,” says the Ohio native. “There isn’t a child who hasn’t taught me something that expands my horizons. They come from a whole different world and thought process. I get as much from them as they do from me.”

Visit bettyjeannativio.com for more information. cocomidweek@gmail.com