Art Explorium merges art, academics & creative reuse

Art lives and breathes inside every segment of education.

It’s aloha again from our colleagues at Hawaii’s Art Explorium. You may remember Heather Williams & Julie Uyeno-Pidot from our previous blog post No Ocean is Wide Enough for spare parts–A Creative Reuse Tale between 2 Cities. We caught up with Heather & staff after reading about their recent Creative Reuse Open House for Teachers.

“By weaving the arts into & through our content in naturally aligned ways, we are providing relevance to student learning, & giving them an opportunity to connect their world to our classrooms,” said Susan Riley in an edutopia blog post.

Believing this approach combined with the creative reuse applications, Art Explorium staff hosted more than 50 teachers at an Open House event in July.

Heather–During the planning phases of this event we meet with other people in the community (educators, people from our local museum & arts organizations, etc.) to discuss what would be most valuable to teachers. We feel that if our projects integrate with critical academic subjects so that they support each other, teachers will be more likely to attend our event, find value in it, & to actually try these projects in their classrooms.

Making the event easy for teachers to attend was one of the most important elements.

Heather–We thought by using an Open House informal format teachers can stay as long or as little as they want. They don’t have to give up an entire day or half a day. Each station was set up with a different academic focus (language arts, science, math). With an arts education expert, teachers learned about two projects that tie in to an academic subject. For example, the science table this year featured Fabric Bowls & Cork Boats as the two projects. Each station also had relevant books set out so teachers could get ideas about other helpful resources. We invited them to bring their children with them. While they were getting materials & talking to resource people & getting project ideas, their kids could do art activities in another area. Teacher resource handout

More than 50 teachers attended, up from only about 10 in 2014, so we have definitely come a long way! Hopefully these teachers will take what they learned & share exponentially with their students.

Heather–Being a new nonprofit, the past three years have been a day-by-day learning experience where we try new things, see how they work, learn from them & move forward from there. We are now starting to see some patterns, & get a better understanding of who we are & what we do.

One of the best parts is that we have built a community around us – in our neighborhood, amongst the families that visit us, amongst teaching artists & other local organizations.

Art Explorium staff plans to participate in creative reuse art activities at some upcoming community events such as a STEAM event at Windward Mall and at the Kaiwi Coast Run/Walk later this month as well. They will do some activities at each event. And, they are presenting at a Preschool Conference in September to share creative reuse ideas with teachers there.

Creative Reuse Lesson Plan Pamphlet

Heather and Julie shared pictures of some of the event’s projects:

Carole with fabric bowl and cork boats

This year I really liked the Fabric Bowls because we have so much donated fabric. They are so cute & kids can really add their own personal touch to them. Carole on the left. She is an artist, an art teacher & a curriculum expert. She is giving ideas to teachers on how to integrate the science projects into their classroom

Janice at science station at workshop

Janice shares some of our favorite classroom resources including the t-shirt apron, robot kit, bottle cap mosaic &felt board.  T-Shirt Apron Directions

The author’s favorite project is the Found Art Collage. 


Laura CarterThe author's favorite project, Found Objects Collage is a writer, blogger, social media maven & nonprofit advocate. A communications professional, she is currently working with Blessed Sacrament Academy on Mission Road developing their communications/development programs. Laura serves on the Advisory Board of Spare Parts. In addition, she has volunteered all five years with TEDxSanantonio.




No Ocean is Wide Enough for spare parts–A Creative Reuse Tale between 2 Cities

Laura Carter_spare parts guest blogger
Laura Carter

Earlier this year Mary Elizabeth Cantu, founder and director of San Antonio’s budding organization spare parts, presented to educators at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference in Ft. Worth. She shared the spare parts vision of creative reuse education to a standing-room only crowd–which included Heather Williams, Executive Director of Art Explorium in Hawaii.

Williams subsequently sought advice from Cantu when planning an Art Explorium materials giveaway for teachers–similar to the summer extravaganza of free, reuse art materials organized by spare parts. In the exchange of ideas, Cantu also connected with Julie Uyeno-Pidot, a Masters degree student in the Public Administration program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Julie recently completed her practicum at the Art Explorium, helping them to locate and apply for grants in support of outreach projects. Julie and Heather graciously granted me an interview via email proving that spare parts‘ influence is transcending San Antonio and becoming a national resource.

What is Art Explorium? Did the concept begin with the idea of reuse and repurposing art materials or was that something that evolved?
Julie–Art Explorium is an arts education nonprofit located in the eclectic Kaimuki area. The organization’s mission is to provide a community art studio to nurture the creative potential in children.

Creative reuse has been a part of the nonprofit’s focus since its inception. Founders Taiji and Naoko Terasaki and Nathan Smith recognized the link between arts integration and environmental sustainability and sought donations of reusable materials from local businesses and the community. These materials are utilized in Art Explorium’s programs: open studio, during which children and their families can create projects at themed centers, or make whatever they please at the Trash-to-Treasure station; workshops that introduce youngsters to local artists and their techniques and special events.

Art Explorium (Honolulu) & & spare parts (San Antonio)
Art Explorium (Honolulu) & spare parts (San Antonio) met at the National Art Education Association 2013 conference in Ft. Worth. Their relationship continues to strengthen as they share creative reuse ideas and best practices in environmental sustainability.

I’m curious about the situation in Hawaii regarding recycling, landfills etc. with its limited space.
Julie–Limited space is definitely an issue here. The City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services provides curbside collection of many recyclable items, including corrugated cardboard, metal cans and newspaper. However, it only accepts #1 and #2 plastic containers, since Hawaii currently lacks the facilities to recycle other types of plastic.

Along with curbside recycling, the City also runs the H-POWER program, which converts waste to electricity through incineration. Both of these programs have diverted over a million tons of waste from Hawaii’s landfills. Art Explorium supplies Hawaii’s community with another method of waste reduction by accepting donations of non-recyclable materials (e.g. magazines, plastic bottle caps and pressed cardboard) for use in its various programs.

How did you hear about the National Art Education Association conference in Ft. Worth?

Heather–I heard about the 2013 NAEA conference in Fort Worth because one of our board members, Taiji Terasaki, had attended it in 2012 before I was hired. Our founding board members were planning to create a non-profit art studio for kids and Taiji decided to attend the conference to get started in figuring out a future Art Explorium.

How did the spare parts presentation inspire you? What were the main take aways?

Heather–The spare parts presentation was really inspirational to me. It was by far the most memorable and helpful session I attended at the conference, partly because Mary is a great presenter and has awesome ideas to share, and partly because their program was much more similar to ours than many of the other organizations at the conference. Many of the organizations there were schools or museums, so not everything related to our daily work.

I still remember Mary showing us how to make yarn out of t-shirts and make watercolors and jump ropes out of used markers. We are such a new organization but these are exactly the kind of things we love, so it was great to see we were on the right track and also to bring some practical ideas back home. We also shared with Mary how we make no-sew aprons out of t-shirts so I was glad we could offer something back to her!

August 1, 2013 Facebook message from Julie Uyeno-Pidot to spare parts.
August 1, 2013 Facebook message from Julie Uyeno-Pidot to spare parts.

What’s the status of relationships with schools? Did anything from spare parts spark ideas for working with schools and/or other nonprofits?

Julie–Art Explorium has a very positive relationship with local schools. The organization regularly hosts field trips and works with teachers beforehand to incorporate what the students are currently learning into the projects that the children participate in during their visit to the studio.

One example is a project that Art Explorium worked on with students from Hanahau’oli School, in which students built a structure using recyclable materials that encapsulated everything that they had learned in their unit on shelters and their importance to human survival. Spare parts has encouraged Williams and the rest of the Art Explorium staff to branch out from its regular activities–open studio, workshops and special events–to doing more community outreach e.g. an art supply fair.

I see you have some Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) art projects on your Facebook page, which are the kids favorites? Do you have suggestions for our readers?

Julie–The toilet paper roll Christmas decorations and decoupage gift boxes have been a big hit this season. Both toilet paper rolls and gift boxes lend themselves well to customization. Studio visitors have created adorable reindeer, snowmen and Santas with markers, ribbon, felt and paint, which can function either as stand-alone decorations or as ornaments. Colorful magazine pictures, paint brushes and a white glue and water wash make for attractive and personalized gift wrapping.

Art Explorium in action! Photo courtesy Art Explorium.
Art Explorium in action! Heather Williams (l), Executive Director and Julie Uyeno-Pidot (r). Photo courtesy Art Explorium.

What are some of your future plans?

Julie–Art Explorium plans on holding a small-scale art supply fair this summer with one of the neighborhood schools. This will give the nonprofit a better idea of what it will need for a larger event. We put together a creative reuse lesson plan pamphlet and a creative reuse guide (inspired by the one put out by spare parts) that can be distributed to teachers at these events. Art Explorium is also interested in doing a community mosaic project with renowned local artist Leah Rigg.

This project would enable children to create their own tiles and take part in the mosaic production process. The mosaic will be mounted at Maunalani Park in Kaimuki for the enjoyment of all visitors. The organization would also like to continue participating in community events with other arts and environmental organizations (e.g Honolulu Museum of Art, Our Kakaako and Surfrider Foundation) and eventually have an artmobile that would allow it to bring its services to low-income and/or geographically remote parts of the island.

Can we come visit you?
Julie and Heather–Yes, of course!