Commitment to community defines Hui Noeau

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The Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center on Maui sits on the 25-acre historic Kaluanui Estate.
The Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center on Maui sits on the 25-acre historic Kaluanui Estate.
For decades Kaluanui Estate has been a haven for artists. A former sugar plantation purchased in 1917 by Harry and Ethel Baldwin, the estate sits on a serene 25 acres tucked into Maui's upcountry.


Ethel Baldwin, a metalworker and painter, started a nonprofit center on the property in 1934 that hosted about 20 artists. Eventually the group outgrew the estate and moved elsewhere on the island.

The Baldwins stopped using Kaluanui as their home in the 1950s, and Maui Land and Pineapple Co. took control of the property. In 1976 the company offered to reopen the arts center, and programs launched once again.

Artists work in a studio at the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center, which hosts thousands of students and 30,000 visitors each year.
Artists work in a studio at the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center, which hosts thousands of students and 30,000 visitors each year.

Finally, in 2005, the company was moving to sell the land, and the community, rather than see an important resource end up in private hands, rallied to raise more than $3 million to purchase Kaluanui.

Now, the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center on the estate welcomes 30,000 visitors year round, and hosts numerous programs for visitors and local residents alike.  

"Our main goal is visual arts education, and we have programs for everyone from 2 years old to 100 years old," said Erin Wooldridge, director of development and membership at Hui Noeau. "There are classes that are truly built for people who are just starting, and classes for people who have been studying for 30 years."

The estate and its historical buildings have been restored, and the arts center routinely adds more programs and facilities. In 2014 Hui Noeau opened its glass blowing studio, and it is currently expanding its programs dedicated specifically to Hawaiian art forms and their preservation. The arts center offers classes in printmaking, ceramics, jewelry, painting and more. Numerous artists work out of studios on the property, and there are frequently courses offered from visiting artists who offer insights on new techniques and styles.

While the arts center is based around its community mission, many of the classes and other offerings are open to one-time visitors. There are one-day classes in jewelry-making and glass-blowing in which participants get to try their hand at the craft and take home a souvenir.

On Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. there is a guided tour, and at other times visitors are welcome to do a self-guided tour of the studios and gardens on the grounds.

"It's an oasis in upcountry, and a great break or day away from the beach on Maui," Wooldridge said. "It's really the only arts center of its kind in the state, and visitors have the chance to interact with artists. We have a killer gift shop with things made at the Hui or on Maui. The tours are a unique fusion of history, art and nature, taking you through the trees and plants, art studios and historic buildings."

This summer the center has held a children's program and in August the kids will get a full gallery showing, complete with an evening grand opening. In September the center will host Malama Wao Akua, "Realm of the Gods," an annual juried art exhibition focused on the native species of Hawaii. Works include photographs of rare species that are seldom seen by humans, Wooldridge said.

Hui Noeau is expanding, recently developing a five-year master plan that includes a new building that will house woodworking and 3-D printing facilities.

"The Hui has come very far from the days when Ethel Baldwin gathered artists at Kaluanui," Wooldridge said. "Then, it was largely small groups of people meeting and largely focused on ceramics and painting. Now we have 30,000 visitors a year, thousands of students using the studios and countless potential opportunities."

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