PHOTOS: UH Hilo art students create mural on Library Lanai

The new mural pays homage to the UH Hilo Vulcans and the diversity of the campus found in its students, faculty, and staff.

The mural, done on a cement wall, depicts a volcano with a flow of blues, turquoise, reds, oranges and yellows filled with images of fish, rain and flowers.
A new mural on the lanai of UH Hilo’s Mookini Library was created by a group of talented students enrolled in an introductory art class. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

By Susan Enright.

A group of students enrolled in an introductory art class at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo have created a stunning mural on the lanai of the campus’s Mookini Library. The images of the mural, in colors of Hawai‘i Island, radiate molten lava red, pastoral green, ocean blue, turquoise rain, and the lavenders, oranges, pinks, and yellows of the island’s flowers, all spewing forth from a black mauna with rising gray ash.

Sinatures of students against bright blue section with fish in the mural.
The UH Hilo student artists taking an art course (ART 109) who worked on the new mural located on the Library Lanai—(from top) Savannah Murphy, Serena Gulland, Summer Sagoonick, Karsen Pokorny, Catherine Thomas, Lucky Maka, Evelyn Snyder, and Wyatt Koon–, and local artist Kristie Fujiyama Kosmides, all wrote their first names in the bottom left corner of the work. The three-point mountain logo is from the Hilo art organization Temple Children who helped in the production of the mural. Click image to enlarge. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

The student artists who worked on the project are Serena Gulland, Wyatt Koon, Lucky Maka, Savannah Murphy, Karsen Pokorny, Summer Sagoonick, Evelyn Snyder, and Catherine Thomas.

“As UH Hilo students we would feel a sense of pride partaking in contributing to the creation of a symbol of diversity and unity through indigenous elements,” say the students in their statement of purpose. “It would be [a] special opportunity to inspire both the community and future students to explore and celebrate our differences.”

The course (ART109), an introduction to drawing and painting, was taught by Professor of Art Andrew Grabar.

Assisting the students with the design proposal and production was Miya Tsukazaki, founder of an arts and sustainability organization based in Hilo called Temple Children, and local artist Kristie Fujiyama Kosmides (who previously helped with another mural project worked on by UH Hilo students).

The proposal of the work describes the concept as paying homage to the UH Hilo Vulcans and the diversity found on campus in its students, faculty, and staff. The artwork takes inspiration from Native Hawaiian deities Lono, the god of agriculture, rainfall, peace, and unity, and Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes who embodies a sacred, primordial force.

“[The mural] invites the viewer in and creates a new, inclusive gathering place on campus for anyone who walks by,” say the artists in their proposal.


The mural is located on a cement wall in front of brick laid flooring.
For some perspective, this image depicts from a distance the new mural located on the lanai of the campus’s Mookini Library. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

A close up of the turquoise, lavenders, reds and oranges flowing down in the mural.
A close up of the colors on the new mural located on the Library Lanai of the UH Hilo campus. Click image to enlarge. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

The UH Hilo Vulcans, including not just athletes but all members of the campus community, are named after the Roman god of fire that includes the fire found in volcanoes. This ties into the symbolism of the red hot mauna in the mural, celebrating Hawai‘i Island’s most unique feature, Kīlauea, and its renowned goddess, Pele. The artists say the imagery of the volcano in the mural represents everyone on campus being a part of the university community and giving back to the community. The ‘ōhi‘a lehua and ‘ae fern imagery recognize Pele’s magnitude and symbolize connection between the people of the UH Hilo ‘ohana (family).

The artwork’s colorful palette and selected flora and fauna represent a celebration of diversity, individually and collectively, on campus, on Hawai‘i Island, and on the planet. The images of kalo (taro) embody the essence of procreation and regeneration, acknowledging its significance as an ancestor to Native Hawaiians. Kalo represents both the spiritual and physical well-being of not only the Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and their heritage, but also, the artists say, the environmental, social, and cultural values important to all people throughout the island state.

The mural’s interpretations of rain and white fish represent Lono, and the ipu (gourds) pay homage to Lono’s powers over plentiful harvests and symbolize an offering, or gift, from the students to the greater UH Hilo campus for future generations to come.

A close up of the rainbow of colors and images on the new mural located on the Library Lanai of the UH Hilo campus. Click image to enlarge. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. 

Photos by Kirsten Aoyagi, a communication major at UH Hilo.