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Trash To Treasure

Mark Jeffers of Storybook Theatre Hawai‘i works with a 15-foot dragon created with trash by artist Monika Mira. Zeianna Gamachuu (in red) and Beverlay Kinnaman (in pink) join in the fun with their masks fashioned from marine debris by students from Kalāheo Elementary School.

See how marine debris is transformed into works of art at “Washed Up,”an exhibit that runs June 8-29 at Kaua‘i Society of Artists’ gallery in Kukui Grove Center.

Last August, artist and Kaua‘i Society of Artists board member Abigail Boroughs created a “Beach Trash” gallery show with some friends. The idea, she says, was birthed from the large quantities of marine debris that make their way to the island, as well as the numerous local creatives who utilize this garbage in their works of art.

In collaboration for the show, Boroughs contacted the Kaua‘i chapter of Surfrider Foundation, an international nonprofit dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans. Through that partnership, she met Monika Mira, lead artist for the organization, and the two formed a kinship and shared passion for the arts and the ocean.

“I was so happy to meet Abigail,” says Mira. “She is another kindred spirit working with beach trash.”

Boroughs echoes the sentiment.

“(Monika’s) fantastic, with such a vision,” she says. “Her work with the youth is wonderful.”

The two have since worked together on various projects, including a recent marine debris mural for fifth-graders from Kālaheo Elementary.

Now, the two women are teaming up again for the first-ever “Washed Up” exhibit, a marine debris art show sponsored by KSA and Surfrider Kaua‘i.

The event runs June 8-29 at KSA’s gallery in Kukui Grove Center. Internationally known trash sculpture Maika‘i Tubbs, Oregon’s Emily Miller and the Big Island’s Kat Crabil will serve as jurors.

The show aims to raise awareness about pollution threats to our oceans, bringing to light the copious amounts of plastic that finds its way to the sea.

“Humans have created these problems, and it is vital that humans take steps to fix the problems,” says RoseAnne Jones, KSA board treasurer and exhibit co-chairwoman. “Artists imagine and then create marine debris art to get this message out to the public. We live on an island … the issue is in our faces. Hawai‘i should be on the forefront of this art movement.”

According to Mira, Surfrider Kaua‘i went from collecting 35,000-40,000 pounds of debris per year to about five tons per month. She says between the tsunami in Japan and continued input to the ocean, there is a greater amount of debris washing up on our island shores.

“We have increased the number of visitors coming to Kaua‘i,” Mira adds. “If every one of our 1.5 million visitors drinks one bottle of water and uses one little mini shampoo bottle in their hotel, that is a lot of extra plastic.”

Artists interested in submitting their pieces for the show must live on Kaua‘i, be age 18 or older and be a KSA member (registration is $25). Entry deadline is June 1. All works must be made from at least 50 percent marine debris, and paintings/photographs must include at least 50 percent marine debris as the subject. All artwork must have been created in the past three years.

For more information, visit kauaisocietyofartists.org or kauai.surfrider.org.


Monika Mira created Cat on a plastic ball for Storybook Theatre Hawai‘i.

Aside from her role as lead artist for Kaua‘i chapter of Surfrider Foundation, Monika Mira also lends her time to Storybook Theatre of Hawai‘i. Over the years, she and executive director Mark Jeffers have collaborated on numerous marine ecology projects, and their most recent project to create puppets from ocean debris might be the most important.

“As the world fills up with humanity’s waste, turning the tide on the onslaught becomes the problem of educators and artists alike,” says Jeffers. “(We are) beginning with very young people, with simple messages to remove, reuse and transform. I hate telling children about the big mess my generation has created for them to clean up. Everyone must do their part to mālama our oceans.”

For this project, Mira oversaw two workshops led by volunteer fabricators. Boxes of debris were provided by Surfrider Kaua‘i from various beach cleanups it hosted throughout the island.

“(They) just sit around and figure out how to put everything together, without going out and buying new plastic pieces,” Mira explains.

The workshops yielded nine puppets of various sizes. This new family of marine debris puppets will begin their adventure this summer as a family of “immigrants” on Kaua‘i who are homeless and looking for their place in paradise. They will make their debut at Story-book Theatre’s World Ocean’s Day event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8 at All Saints Gym in Kapa‘a.

The puppets will then star in their own extended family comedy television segment for Jeffers’ Russell the Rooster Show on Spectrum OC 16 and OC 128. Auditions for actors, dancers and puppeteers will be held at Storybook Theatre at 3 p.m. May 30-31 and June 1.

Call 335-0712 or visit storybook.org for more information.