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Mural art brings life to Kaua‘i’s bus shelters

Commutes on Kaua‘i just got a lot more colorful.

Three local artists have created murals for their neighborhood bus shelters in an effort to liven up the island’s public spaces through visual storytelling of its communities.

Part of the Rice Street Business Association’s Lihu‘e Placemaking, Forestry and Gardens Initiative, the project was spearheaded by both the association and Better Block Hawai‘i, with support from the County of Kaua‘i’s Office of Economic Development.

“A lot of the newer bus shelters look great, but there’s a lot of older bus shelters that just need revamping — some love and care,” said county council member and Rice Street Business Association President Addison Bulosan. “So we wrote for this grant to make these pieces, to help connect our towns and have a better community reflection of what we have in our spaces.”

After receiving partial funding through the AARP Community Challenge Grant, each of the three artists designed their murals to represent their respective communities.

In ‘Ele‘ele, Bethany Coma’s mural highlights the neighboring park, showing sports balls and a picnic blanket alongside a large self-care checklist, with a psychedelic skyline background.

In ‘Oma‘o, Bree Blake showed off the town’s natural beauty through depictions of the nearby landscape and vegetation.

And in Kilauea, Kayti Lathrop created a detailed depiction of the town’s ancient and plantation-era past, post-sugarcane and evironmental conservation present, and hopeful future.

“I just tried to put into visual form the people who made the place what it is, what they would like to see conveyed and what they would like to teach the future generations about,” Lathrop said. “I basically tried to squeeze in as much as I could — there’s so many concepts and ideas and reflections. The essence of the town and its energy is basically what I tried to convey.”

Bulosan said that, from start to finish, the project was designed with community members in mind.

“First, we found the local artists of the places, and then the second piece was to connect with the community in the area to help tell the story,” he said. “We did a series of reach-outs to local organizations of the places, and then residents of the area, to hear stories that remind them of that space.”

After taking advice from members of the public, the artists presented their mural concepts to residents at a community dinner in October 2022, where the attendees voted on their favorite designs.

The three artists spent the remainder of 2022 painting the murals, incorporating additional community ideas as they worked.

Bulosan emphasized how positive public reception of the murals have been since they were completed in late December 2022.

“We get messages every day,” he said. “I’m sure the artists get them every day (about) how much of an impact it’s made on the community.”

In particular, he mentioned that members of the North Shore Lions Club, who built the Kilauea shelter approximately 40 years ago, were extremely pleased with the results.

“They’re just so stoked that the bus shelter came alive,” Bulosan continued. “They were happy to have built that and have that as a resource to the community, but for it to have the stories of the time is just amazing.”

Bulosan added that he hopes livening up some of the island’s bus shelters — many of which were previously littered with graffiti — would encourage more people to use the bus stops.

“The big part of it is just aesthetically, if something doesn’t look safe or doesn’t look inviting, you don’t go to the area,” he said. “If the art tells of the place, it reminds you, like, ‘Oh yeah — this is where we used to hang out, we should be fine.’”

While the three bus shelter murals are nearly finished — Lathrop told The Garden Island she has one more thing she’d like to add to hers — Bulosan said the project is only beginning.

“We do have one in the works coming up in Lawa‘i with local artists,” he said. “We have the initial design, and now we’re gonna submit to the community and to the county for review and approval. So that could be this year, sometime starting in July.”

Bulosan added that the organizations involved in the initiative are tentatively looking at a number of other sites across the island, although they’re waiting for local artists to present ideas for future murals.

Bulosan encourages residents interested in creating their own mural to follow Better Block Hawai‘i’s guide on doing so. Members of the public can find info on how to get involved at


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or
Source: The Garden Island

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