Storybook Theatre’s Garden of Peace breaks ground

HANAPEPE — The Storybook Theatre of Hawai‘i was founded 25 years ago by Mark Jeffers as a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to addressing an important need for young children: to hear good stories told in creative ways. Dedicated to the propagation of culture through creative education and exploration, the theater recently received a grant from the Hawai‘i Legislature to begin building a garden that would honor a local Hanapepe hero — Spark M. Matsunaga.

At a recent groundbreaking ceremony, the theater began the journey of building this community-oriented garden. Mark Jeffers hopes this outdoor space will be a way to celebrate the inspirational local leader and his message of international harmony and inclusion. “With the plans drawn and the rendering for the sculpture complete, it was time to invite the community to help us begin the next phase of this project. A local boy who became a national hero — Spark Matsunaga is someone we all can look up to,” Jeffers said.

“Sparky’s Garden of Peace” will be a place where social and cultural boundaries dissolve and students will be encouraged to look below, above, behind and within to find their own unique stories, so valuable to preserve, Jeffers described. “It will give a safe and inspirational space for the outdoor classroom, for the public, and for the creation of new culture,” he said.

Throughout Sparky’s involvement in his hometown of Hanapepe and his service in the U.S. Senate, he remained dedicated to the expansive ideology of world peace based on commonalities rather than divisions.

“With the exciting commission of Kim Duffet, internationally recognized Hawai‘i-based artist, for an original bronze sculpture of Sparky to anchor the entire space, along with an outdoor stage and amphitheater, the conversion of our backyard will indeed be quite extraordinary,” said Jeffers of the building of the garden.

The groundbreaking ceremony included speeches and appearances by Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, Kaua‘i County Council member Mel Rapozo, Rep. Roland Sagum III, D-District 16, Matt Matsunaga (former senator and Sparky’s son), Storybook board president Stan Yates, artist Kim Duffett, neighbors, friends and long-time acquaintances of Matsunaga. Dancers from Hula Halau O‘Nani performed to an emotional crowd.

“I was close to tears,” Jeffers said. “You know, this has been 10 years in the making with many moments when I was feeling unsure if it would happen. Having people join us of that caliber, acknowledging the long road taken, was a gift.”

The groundbreaking marks the beginning of the sixth phase in the design and build project for the theater’s expansion into multi-media and outdoor facilities. Duffett’s larger-than-life sized sculpture of Sparky pointing to the sky, while a young girl looks up in wonder, will anchor the space which also includes an aviary, outdoor stage, benches and small pond.

“We were able to gather together the many people who feel ownership for this (project) … what an amazing feeling after steering it alone for so long,” Jeffers said.

The sense of community support at the groundbreaking was evident through speeches and the positive feeling surrounding the event. Jeffers remarked on Matt Matsunaga’s speech entitled “Doz Daze,” which spoke to the times “we all remember, the times that were the inspiration for this project. This is the Hawaiian mana come alive and present.”

The grand opening is planned for late 2007 into 2008 and the theater is still in need of financial donations and/or volunteer help with building the garden. Mark Jeffers is also looking for high school students interested in interning for the summer. For more information call 335-0712. Donations can be sent to Storybook Theatre c/o Sparky’s Garden of Peace, P.O. Box 820, Hanapepe, 96716.

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