Wyland refreshes Waipouli whale wall

Amy LeBaron plans to be back at the Wyland wall today.

“I was here Saturday,” she said. “We’re here (Sunday) in between things we needed to do. He’s got until noon Monday to complete this mural, so we’re definitely coming back to see the finish.”

Artist Wyland returned to Kauai Saturday to refurbish the wall at the Kauai Village Shopping Center building that once housed Longs Drugs and now sports signage promising “Ross Dress for Less coming soon.”

“He started the wall in 1991,” said Eddie Abubo, a coordinator with the Hanalei Elementary School. “With the weather, the wall was getting old and needed to be redone. Wyland reached out to the building’s owners and they agreed to have him redo the wall. He plans to return in the summer to work on the whale on the shopping center’s clock tower.”

The redoing of the wall proved to be a social media event, with many people following the stages of completion through Facebook and Instagram postings.

“He’s my idol,” said Charles Barnhill, an art teacher visiting from Indiana. “He is the ultimate in creating whales. I have taken in almost all of his murals. He’s a great artist — the Michelangelo of sea creatures. He spreads messages about the environment and sea creatures great and small — and people listen. Because of him, whales and other sea creatures will have a better life.”

The message about the environment was the theme for the Wyland Foundation national mural contest, which was won in 2016 by the Hanalei Elementary School fourth-grade art class led by Jen Gagen and Brian Hennessy.

“The mural contest increases awareness of the environment — coastal, climate, ocean — and this year, the theme centered around ‘Water is Life,’” Abubo said. “I didn’t think we would win, but after winning, we got a bunch of things from the Wyland Foundation, including art supplies, a serigraph which is mounted in the school’s lobby, and much more. Today, the students are here because Wyland wanted to meet them and will autograph a copy of their winning mural.”

Wyland said it was time for the 26-year-old mural to be refreshed after aging —and surviving a hurricane.

“There is one change,” he said. “The whale is now swimming — to Hanalei.”

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