Art-in teaches keiki about environment

In an attempt at world peace, before the end of the Cold War, environmental activist and artist George Sumner created a piece of work and sent it to Mikhail Gorbachev.

“I did this painting and if you look at it, there were about 50 or 60 hand prints on it all of kids from Kaua‘i,” Sumner said. “We sent it to them ‘To Russia from Kaua‘i with love.’”

Seeing the impact of that act fueled Sumner and his wife, Donnalei, to continue spreading the word of art, environment and peace. They want to recreate that work and bring their art and message to the Kauai Discovery Museum tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“I’ve been an environmental activist all my life,” he said. “And my wife and I have been in a time and position to give back to the children. We’ve been doing it for about 15 years now.”

Sumner plans on painting a small mural while his wife lectures to the kids about the environment.

“I want to sort of whack away at the painting and then have the children jump in and add their little touch to the painting, like we did when we sent the painting to Gorbachev,” Sumner said. “I want the kids to participate in this and watch the art develop before their eyes. They can put their hand- or thumb-print on the painting and they can turn that print into a starfish or some other sea being.”

Sumner, who splits his time between his home in California and in Hanalei, pioneered the Hawai‘i marine art movement, before Wyland popularized it. He and his wife like to use the artwork to bring awareness of the marine environment.

“We want to let the children know that they can make a difference in the world, whether it be through art, music or singing,” said Donnalei Sumner. “George will paint and I’ll be talking to the kids about what they can do for the environment.”

Admittance to the museum is free for this event, even though it’s a fund-raiser for the museum.

“We’ve got this great little museum here and we want to keep it going for a long time,” she said. “We want to do whatever we can for this and maybe they can raffle off the painting later.”

The Sumners originally approached the museum to do this.

“George and Donnalei came to us and asked how they can help us here at the museum,” said January Martinez, operations manager for the museum. “They’re going to come down and paint with the kids and for a donation to the museum, the kids can put their hand print on the border of the picture he’s doing. So they’ll all be able to add their little touch with their hands.”

This, in a sense, is Sumner’s way of promoting peace.

“I believe in an international peace park and that things should start here and go around the world,” he said. “This place is like a magical place on the planet.”

Sumner, 66, first came to Hawai‘i when he was 18 and in the Navy. He said Kaua‘i, though, is where his heart is.

His work has made it into the personal collections of Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood and Tom Selleck.

To view his work or learn more about Sumner, visit

Want to Go?

What: Art-in with George and

Donnalei Sumner

Where: Kauai Discovery


When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m. to

4 p.m.

Admission: Free; donations


• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or


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