Memories of the beloved contributor and involved artist, Joe Kalima
Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge
‘He did more than just help put it together; because you want to get equal participation from everyone, and Joe really was a galvanizing force. Because Joe was participating, others would join in. He was instrumental in keeping that group moving forward. His demeanor was very easygoing. [He was] a very likable guy, a very lovable guy, and he was right there, helping to move that effort forward. That was my key engagement with Joe.’
A cherished member of the community, Joe Kalima, passed away at the age of 63 this semester from health complications. His involvement on campus was vast: playing volleyball, producing works of art, and coaching paddling through UH Hilo’s Canoe Club. During Kalima’s time at UH Hilo, he was a key figure among the students. He was the President of the Student Art Association for many years, a Registered Independent Student Organization (RISO) affiliated with the Art Department.
Michael Marshall , faculty member in the UH Hilo Art Department, says that the Student Art Association has been integral to the academic program in the arts because it hasn’t been wholly supported by faculty teaching out of books, but instead through hands-on experiences with art itself. Students in this RISO arrange and put together an exhibition that the Art Department program has organized. These exhibitions bring original pieces of artwork to campus, and Marshall claims that the exhibitions are the magic ingredient for the Art Major program, and that they work to bridge the art community to the UH Hilo campus.
When discussing Joe Kalima’s involvement, Marshall shares, “He did more than just help put it together; because you want to get equal participation from everyone, and Joe really was a galvanizing force. Because Joe was participating, others would join in. He was instrumental in keeping that group moving forward. His demeanor was very easygoing. [He was] a very likable guy, a very lovable guy, and he was right there, helping to move that effort forward. That was my key engagement with Joe.”
In addition to his work with helping to put together the exhibition, Kalima created a couple of murals that can be seen across campus. He made the piece that is hanging outside the Campus Center office, as well as two pieces which can typically be found hanging in Lava Landing. The two that normally hang in Lava Landing are currently with the family after being shown at his services.
His artwork was also accepted into several exhibitions during his time at the university. “Joe was the kind of person who could catalyze those things, just by being involved. He was really quite a wonderful artist. That was really evident when I went to his services, and the family had gathered a lot of his artworks and had them on display. It was really quite impressive,” Marshall says.
In 2002, Marshall organized a National Drawing Exhibition. Across the nation, 34 different universities and art schools accepted the invitation to submit student drawings to the exhibition.
The show was juried by Leon Hicks, who was a Professor Emeritus at Webster University in St. Louis. Out of 300 drawing submissions, a mere 42 pieces were selected for the show. Kalima’s artwork was one of the 42 accepted submissions, which put him in the accepted 14 percent of all applicants. His accepted piece was titled Ipu Heke, and was 30 inches tall, by 40 inches wide.
Kalima took on the role of paddling and canoeing coach with the Canoe Club. The club would meet on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Sometimes the Sunday meet ended with a potluck, according to Greg Barber, a member of the UH Canoe Club.
“Everyone really liked him. He was just one of those guys that you had to like. Sometimes he would have us race using only our hands. He just made everything fun,” states Barber.
Kalima also got involved with UH Hilo’s intramural volleyball program. “During the time Joe was around there was faculty intramural involvement with volleyball, and Joe had legendary skills. I didn’t know this about Joe directly, but I heard a lot about his athletic prowess and his ability as a volleyball player,” Marshall discloses.
“We would always have four or five canoes out on the water at a time. He would always say things like, ‘Okay, we’re going to the red buoy, it’s not a race, but don’t be last!’ So you knew that it was kind of a race,” says Barber.
Marshall is of the belief that having a natural leader like Joe around encouraged students to participate, solely because of his personality. Marshall continues, “He really was a wonderful person; he was a very calm person, very steady, and willing to pitch in. He had great leadership qualities.”
Joe always seemed to be in good spirits, and to be nice to everybody. “One thing I know is, it didn’t matter what time of day you talked to him, he’d always say, ‘Good Morning,’ He always encouraged everyone, and he was a great guy,” Barber expresses.