Wailuku Art Space: A nurturing hub for local Maui artists

Located in the heart of Wailuku town, the Wailuku Art Space is much more than a gallery; it's a sanctuary for local creativity. Founded by Jaclynn (Jackie) Sabado-Eitel and Jimbo Eitel, the space aims to uplift the community by providing a platform for local artists to showcase their work.

The couple has a commitment to inclusivity and a focus on fostering a supportive artistic environment, and their Wailuku Art Space is making waves in Maui's art scene.

Jackie and Jimbo's journey began with Paradise Now, a shop opened in 2020 and located a few hundred feet away on Market Street near its intersection with Main Street. The shop features Jackie’s designs and art pieces, alongside creations from 70 to 80 other local artists.

Launched at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business quickly had to pivot from a traditional retail model to an online-centric approach due to lockdowns. This shift enabled them to adapt to the new normal and eventually led them to open the Wailuku Art Space at 53 North Market St.

"We needed a warehouse facility, and a friend reached out about a space," Jackie said. "The upstairs serves as our warehouse space . . . Our central goal with this gallery I would say is to kind of encourage our local population to support local artists. And that’s why it’s important to be in Wailuku where we have probably the most local people walking around on the streets to purchase art.”

For local artists, it’s difficult to make a living.

“We get people coming in every single day that are like, ‘What can I do to get my art in here?’ ” she said. “And, it’s hard because we have a little space and we wish we could show everybody’s work that wants to be shown.”

The gallery's mission is deeply personal for Jackie, daughter of renowned artist Philip Sabado, who was the youngest of nine children born and raised in Maunaloa, Molokai. For the past 30 years, he has been committed to creating art that is historically accurate and depicts his love of nature and the culture of Hawaii.

Jackie said she knows the struggle artists face, just to pay rent and grocery bills.

She recognized a need for a dynamic art space in Wailuku, and she and Jimbo created a venue that hosts different art shows bi-weekly or monthly, offering diverse perspectives and genres. This approach ensures that under-represented artists, especially women and young talents, have a place to shine.

"Right now, we have a plein air exhibit with works from women artists who are very much represented on Maui," said Jimbo. "But we just took down a group show featuring 58 artists, many of whom had never exhibited publicly before."

The “Hidden Talents” Plein Air Art exhibition runs through June 15. And, now through Sept. 2, the “Call to Artist – ‘Above and Within,’ a group exhibition inspired by the ocean will show at the gallery.

One of the standout features of Wailuku Art Space is its inclusivity. Unlike many traditional galleries that operate on a juried system, Wailuku Art Space welcomes all artists, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to display their work. This inclusive approach was highlighted in their recent "Month of Lei" show, where artists could submit pieces inspired by lei or lei-making without the fear of rejection.

"We want to inspire artists by giving them a place to hang their art," Jimbo said. "It's somewhat easy to create art, but getting it on a wall and having people see it is the challenging part. We're here to bridge that gap."

The gallery doesn't only cater to established artists. It also nurtures young and emerging talents. For example, one exhibit featured a mix of pieces from a 15-year-old artist and a 94-year-old woman who took up painting in retirement. This diverse representation is a testament to the gallery's commitment to providing a platform for artists at all stages of their careers.

"Art is a hard thing to pursue, and we want to make it a bit easier for local artists," said Jackie. "By offering a 70% artist commission, we help keep prices low and sales frequent, which is crucial for artists trying to make a living."

Wailuku Art Space actively engages with the community through social media, primarily Instagram, where they announce upcoming events and share profiles of featured artists. This digital presence complements their physical gallery, helping them reach a broader audience and foster a vibrant arts community in Wailuku.

"Social media has been instrumental in connecting us with like-minded people and artists," Jackie said. "We also collaborate with other local artists and groups, like the Maui Artists Co-op, to further our mission of inclusivity and support."

Despite the challenges of running an art gallery, especially in the wake of the Lahaina fire that devastated many art spaces in Maui, Jackie and Jimbo remain optimistic. They see Wailuku Art Space as a testament to the resilience and creativity of Maui's artists.

"We're learning as we go, but we're committed to making this space a cornerstone of the local arts community," Jackie said. "Our goal is to keep evolving and providing opportunities for artists to grow and thrive."

For more information about upcoming shows and events, visit Wailuku Art Space's website or follow them on Instagram @WAILUKUARTSPACE. Whether you're a local resident or a visitor, the gallery offers a unique and enriching experience that celebrates the vibrant artistry of Maui.