First of three planned murals on mental health

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Muralists Trysen Kaneshige and Seth Womble make preparations to lay the first layer of color to a mural on the Tanaka Building, Monday on Kalena Street.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A spectator leaves after watching Seth Womble and Trysen Kaneshige start work on a mural on the Tanaka Building, Monday in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Muralist Seth Womble applies the sky layer to a mural developing on the Tanaka Building, Monday on Kalena Street.

LIHU‘E — Muralist Seth Womble said the project is a great way to start the week, working with Trysen Kaneshige to clear the paint hose lines and masking off features on the Tanaka Building located across Kalena Park in Lihu‘e.

The pair of artists from Bent Tree Anomaly started work on the first of three planned murals on mental health presented as a partnership between Bent Tree Anomaly, Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance, and the Kaua‘i Resilience Project, and funded through the County of Kaua‘i’s Kupaa Kaua‘i Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security grant to help reduce the stigma of mental health and prevent suicide.

“The mural would not be possible without the generosity of the building owner, Roy Tanaka and his daughter Lori Koga,” said Nannie Ann Apalla, the Keiki to Career Program Manager for the Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance. “The mural is tied to the theme of mental health, and it visually demonstrates that Kaua‘i is an island community that cares for, and supports our ‘ohana, neighbors and friends who may be struggling or feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or even suicidal.”

Spectators stopped to watch the proceedings even before the first layer of paint was put down. Apalla said the mural will feature a large he‘e, or octopus, in Kaua‘i’s unique ocean environment, Hawaiian plants to celebrate the ‘aina, and the Kilauea Lighthouse to light the way through stormy waters.

“The message is that there is hope, and there is help,” said Alice Luck, the president and CEO of Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance in a press release. “Everyone is experiencing more stress than usual right now, and this mural will send the message that we are not alone. There are people available to help us — to listen to us, 24/7, without judgment. Those themes are woven throughout the mural.”

September is observed as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If anyone needs help, call 1-800-273-8256 (TALK), or simply text “ALOHA” to 741741.

“We are honored to host this beautiful mural on the Tanaka Building,” Lori said. “It is a privilege to help reduce the stigma of mental health, and to show that our community cares about all of our people and the struggles they may be going through.”

Womble’s art invites the viewer into the story in a very special way. The challenges that he overcame in his life are incorporated into the story of his murals. Each mural is a unique visual representation for communities to be proud of as demonstrated in the recent completion of the mural on the east-facing wall of the Pi‘ikoi Building, Lihu‘e Civic Center, the Kiibo Restaurant building, and the construction screening wall fronting the Kaua‘i Beer Company on Rice Street.

His goal is to encourage more people to get involved and create large scale murals and public art projects that will tell important stories, similar to the objectives of NirManaFest that will launch in October.

“This mural has a very special meaning to me,” Womble said. “I understand how difficult it can be to go through dark times, and knowing that there are people who care about you, and people you can call, can make all the difference in the world.”

The mural on the Tanaka Building is just one in a series of three murals on mental health. The Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance is looking for another building host in Kapa‘a for another mural. There is no cost to the building owner. If anyone would like to host a mural, call KPAA at 632-2005.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or

  1. Harold A Maio September 15, 2020 3:09 am Reply

    —-to help reduce the stigma of mental health

    Step one to accomplish the above:

    1. Decline to participate in it. Any willingness to participate only fuels it.
    2. Decline to support those who do participate in it. Any willingness to support them only fuels it.

    Harold A Maio

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