Oahu’s Pow! Wow! fest elevates and celebrates street murals as the art they are

Mural painters James Bullough (left) and Ricky Watts’ contribution to last year’s Pow! Wow! in Honolulu can be viewed at the Auahi and Cooke streets in the Kakaako neighborhood between downtown and Waikiki. The festival begins Feb. 8 and continues through Feb. 22.
(Jasper Wong)

An already colorful Honolulu neighborhood is set to get fresh coats of paints as Pow! Wow! Hawaii — which has at its core murals and their creators but includes also block parties, talks, breakdancing and a concert by Eminem — kicks off 15 days of events beginning Friday.

Pow! Wow! Hawaii, now in its ninth year, has left more than 330 murals on walls throughout Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood, a district sandwiched between downtown and Waikiki.

Hawaii isn’t its only festival; it has street art festivals in 17 cities worldwide, including Long Beach. They allow artists to legitimize, on a grand scale, what otherwise might just be considered graffiti.

The artists at the Hawaii event, including Shepard Fairey, Jasper Wong and Nanea Lum, will take to the streets with their brushes, spray guns and buckets of paint Feb. 11-16.

“It is in no way a competition,” organizer Kamea Hadar said in email. “[We are] just beautifying the community and sharing culture.”


Pow! Wow! “passports” include a map identifying the painting locations that can be found throughout Kakaako.

Participants in a Segway tour through Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood stop in front of one of the hundreds of murals that adorn the city’s streets, thanks to the annual Pow! Wow! mural painting festival. Tours are offered twice a day.
(Segway of Hawaii)

Segway of Hawaii leads twice-daily, 90-minute tours that introduce participants to the artwork as well as the neighborhood’s cafes, coffee shops and boutiques.

The Kakaako Waterfront Park/Pow Wow Mural Tour costs $139 and departs at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. You must be at least 10 years old and must not weigh more than 275 pounds.

Festival goers also will have a chance to interact with the artists when they’re not working. Logan Hicks will discuss his paintings during a public forum Feb. 12, and Fairey will speak Feb. 14. Both talks begin at 7 p.m. at Wade Warehouse, 449 Cooke St.

Also as part of this year’s festival, Eminem and Bamp will perform in concert 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Aloha Stadium. Tickets start at $39.50.

If you miss the festival, you still can see the artists’ efforts throughout the year. Look online for a list of most of the more than 330 murals painted in previous years. Their locations also are included.