Leonora Orr offers free showing of documentary

LIHUE — Kauai artist Leonora Orr remembers sitting in her parents’ Philadelphia living room, watching her father pitch a starting fluid for diesel engines he invented.

“I remember him shooting a flame like eight feet across our living room as a demonstration when people would come to the house,” Orr said.

The feat made her dad a magician in her young mind.

“I think just seeing that incredible fire, on some level, it’s part of why I’m an artist,” she said. “I have open, lifelong energy coming from powerful parents.”

Orr’s mother set a powerful example of generosity toward her community, which Orr has also tried to incorporate into her life.

“If you have good parents, you can take their lessons — lifelong — balancing it out with the stuff you need to shake off,” she said.

Orr’s life took her from her Pennsylvania home on a path of worldwide travel, and the artist spent 10 years living in the Republic of Cameroon in West Africa. She’s spent the past 20 years on Kauai.

This year is Orr’s 75th birthday, and to commemorate the event, she’s created a video entitled “Gardens of Grace: Kauai” in collaboration with 4D Media. She’ll be screening the film at the Kukui Grove Cinema at 10:30 a.m. Saturday

“Really the purpose of this video is to inspire people to steward yourself and the land well, to live a long life, and to serve other people in the community,” Orr said.

“Gardens of Grace: Kauai” is also a gift of gratitude for the lessons Orr has learned from Kauai’s land and her people.

“I wanted to leave a legacy to this island,” Orr said. “The whole thing is about honoring the land.”

Inspiring the next generation is another intention woven into Orr’s film, and she said her goal is to offer a message of celebrating life through the arts and working together to care for each other and the land.

During her time in Africa, Orr said she learned many lessons about humanity and what it means to have a balanced life by watching the struggles of the people that she met.

“Living in Africa, death was my best teacher,” Orr said. “People were literally starving and dying in front of me and without the extremes of going way over the top, or way out the bottom, you cannot know a true balanced life.”

After moving to Kauai, Hawaiian kumu became Orr’s teachers, and she also became a student at the Hindu Monastery, which helped solidify a respect for religious ritual that her Presbyterian parents instilled when she was young.

“I learned the true importance of ritual practice and community living,” Orr said.

Orr has had several shows around the island in the decades she’s been a part of the community, and she’s devoted much of her time to inspiring and teaching Kauai’s keiki.

She also spent a year sketching scenes at Coco Palms, which she donated to The Children of the Land, a Kauai nonprofit focused on keeping Polynesian culture alive on Kauai.

“My whole life has always been about the energy I’ve gotten from good teachings and good life pinnings,” Orr said. “That’s what my birthday is about, too.”


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