Effort to create multimedia art colony in Hanapepe begins taking shape

Even before she touched down at Lihu’e Airport, Millicent Cummings fell in love with the physical beauty of Kaua’i as seen from the window of the jet, and figured this is where she would find her “artistic ‘ohana.”

She had read about the burgeoning artists’ colony in and around Hanapepe’s sleepy, off-the-highway main street (Hanapepe Road, of course), and in two short years has managed to fairly well immerse herself in it.

Her Gallery M, on the eastern end of Hanapepe Road, has its grand opening this Friday, Nov. 22, and is her Kaua’i debut as a multi-faceted artist who is intent on “inspiring and cultivating a more direct relationship between the community and the arts.”

She is in the spotlight of the opening, but has offered space to four other female Kaua’i artists under her roof and representation: Solleille La Fete, Isa Maria, Anna Mills Raimondi and Anna Skaradzinska.

Cummings, known as “the Divine Ms. M” to close friends, immediately got involved with the Hanapepe Economic Alliance, Storybook Theatre of Hawaii, Garden Island Arts Council and Kauai Society of Artists.

She and the four other artists each have their own spaces in the new gallery, and offer a diverse selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, collages, jewelry, handmade crafts, and more.

But Cummings’ talents go beyond the visual. She has produced over 150 songs as a singer and songwriter, on her own Jai Ma label, has done live solo work on both TV and radio, and is recording an album with local slack key master Ken Emerson.

A teacher’s assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Cummings was also performance and arts and crafts director with the NYC Police Athletic League, and literature instructor during the summer school session at Kauai High School this year.

Naturally, then, her passion is to turn Gallery M into much more than a visual display of Kaua’i art for sale. The gallery will become, if she has her way, a community center sponsoring drawing and anatomy classes, workshops, lectures, and live performances for both children and adults.

“The spiritual and artistic culture within the Hawaiian tradition is (will be) an area of focus for many of these workshops and performances,” she said.

With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (painting) from the Parsons School of Design in New York City, while studying earlier at the Cornish Institute of the Arts in Seattle, Cummings has hundreds of works in several different media previously shown and later stored in New York City on their way to Kaua’i.

Cummings has had previous exhibitions, including some one-woman shows, on Maui and the Big Island, and across the country from New York City to Key West, Fla., to The Millicent Cummings House of Fine Art & High Craft in Tubac, Ariz.

Her niche of the Hanapepe gallery includes paintings, sculptures, mixed-media works, a total of six different media in a 15-year retrospective.

Outside the gallery walls, she has enjoyed getting to know “the working artists, and hard-working artists” they are, around Hanapepe, she said.

Cummings is convinced the setting there is “akin to what I was searching for,” and together the artists will work to revitalize Hanapepe’s artisans’ row and make it a known art community.

The Friday night art walks, a long-standing tradition in the town, are just the beginning, she feels.

While the Hanapepe art market is geared more for collectors than individual buyers, the future of the town as a multimedia gathering place for artists and those who love art, or as one person calls it, “art haven of the art maven,” has limitless potential, Cummings is certain.

Joining Cummings and the other in-house artists at the grand opening will be Cindy Combs, Blu Dux, fire dancer Melody Lynn, and the drum group JahFoliba.

For more information, please call the gallery, 335-3220.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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