Mele Murals

Youth Development • Arts Education • Cultural Preservation • Community Building

Mele Murals promotes youth development, arts education, cultural preservation, and community-building through the creation of large-scale outdoor murals. Mural designs focus on Hawaiian lyrics (mele) that explore mo’olelo ‘aina (stories of place) and cultural and historical heritage. Local artists, youth, and other members of our communities spanning the eight major islands of Hawai’i continue to participate in our programs.
Every ahupua’a has mo’olelo. Mele Mural’s visual storytelling program pulls together visual storytelling teams from keiki through kūpuna from each respective community. We reach into the heart of the community to collectively create the mo’olelo, imagery, and theme depicted on each project wall. We are here to help you tell your story.

Check out completed Mele Murals projects.

Program Goals

Our work honors the last commands of our King David Kalākaua, “Look to the keiki, teach them, groom them, show them wonder, and inspire them.” Mele Murals affords a platform to teach young people to become storytellers, painters, and community leaders.

Create an all-islands public art project that is artistically excellent, deeply connected to the history of Hawai’i, and a source of pride.
Develop arts-interested youth into visual storytellers by educating them on local history, showing them how to connect to ancestors, and developing their artistic skills.
Teach public art techniques that are not taught in conventional arts classes, helping to develop leadership, organizational, and public speaking skills.
Enhance students’ creative and critical thinking skills through the mural arts process.
Use a broad set of media tools to share the stories of the mele with a global audience, highlighting important artistic, cultural, and historical themes.
Build and sustain an Art in Public movement across the island chain, filling them with professional works of art.
Provide opportunities for youth to explore Hawaiian oral storytelling tradition, to learn how to read kaona, and to educate about Hawaii’s cultural heritage and values.
Increase cross-generation and cross-island engagement by creating new and exciting opportunities for all generations to learn and share mele and stories.

Based On A Proven Model

Mele Murals builds upon the tradition of many public art, youth development, art education, and community development programs that have been successful around the U.S. and internationally. Those include The Estria Foundation’s international Water Writes series, focusing on critical water issues in 10 cities around the globe, and the Love Letter series in Philadelphia. However, a cross island Art in Public project of this scope, that incorporates ancient Hawaiian Protocols, with these goals and this number of partners, is unprecedented. Click below to learn more about our process.

Building Community

The Mele Murals workshop process builds lasting relationships by bringing together people whose paths might otherwise never have crossed and empowers voices that may not have been heard before. The project joins diverse community members and the finished mural celebrates their collective creative force. Neighborhood murals transform the visual landscape and remain a living part of the community long after the project is completed. The content of Mele Murals is a visual depiction of community input and dialogue from the workshops.  Mele Murals participants become stewards of the artwork and what it represents.  Youth participants develop skills in the artform through a safe opportunity for creativity and self-expression with an authentic audience, cultivating confidence as another generation of artists emerge across our island communities.

Murals and Hawaiian Music

Murals are transformative, adding color, beauty, and life to public spaces. Muralism changes lives and strengthens the fabric of a community as people are enabled to explore their artistic voice and beautify their own neighborhoods. The muralism process also passes along local culture and tradition, developing new leaders. When completed with community and historical content, murals become local monuments and a source of community pride.

Hawaiian music is honest. It celebrates connection to the land, chronicles traditions and stories, and binds Hawaii’s people together with the past and the future. During the workshops Mele Murals explores the meaning and kaona (hidden meaning) of songs and chants in the context of past and present community issues. The murals shares these stories and stimulates dialogue among generations of Hawaii residents and visitors.


Local artists will lead and mentor the Halau Paheona. Mele Murals involves youth from local programs and schools, including Hawaiian-focused charter schools. Youth are involved in every step of the mural-making process, from securing a wall to collaborating on a design, to creating the mural and celebrating its completion.

Musicians, community leaders, and cultural practitioners meet with youth and share the importance and meaning of the songs and chants. A team of artists translates concepts generated in the workshop into a mural sketch.

Connection and Sharing

The communities will be connected online to share insight and guide each other through the community-building and creative processes.  As youth become more proficient in muralism, they will teach their new recruits. Mele Murals will include events honoring and featuring the work of the Mele Murals communities.

‘Oiwi TV will be filming every mural, and sharing these videos through their cable channel and website.

Acclaimed documenter, Tad Nakamura, will produce a feature length film. We will promote and share the mural-making process and stories in the murals with people around the world through film festivals and special screenings.

We are currently seeking partners to create children’s books and an adult coffee table book.

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