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WCCC and Women’s Prison Project

November 7, 2023
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HONOLULU – Two murals depicting tranquil beach and ocean scenes were unveiled this morning at the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC) in Kailua, the result of a creative collaboration between local artists Bill Braden and Kai Kaulukukui and WCCC residents. Work on a third and final mural featuring a forest scene will commence later this month under the direction of artist Solomon Enos. 

The collaboration was initiated by the Women’s Prison Project (WPP), a restorative justice advocacy group, and completed with the support of WCCC personnel, including members of the maintenance and security departments, and the offender services administration.. The murals were funded by monetary donations from WPP members as well as donations of materials from Hardware Hawaiʻi in Kailua and the Department of Public Safety. 

“This project is transforming the visual landscape of the facility into an inspirational environment that provides hope for a better future,” stated State of Hawai‘i Public Safety Director Tommy Johnson. “We could not have done this project without the generosity of all those involved. We hope to replicate similar inspirational and uplifting murals at all of our correctional facilities statewide.” 

“Women’s Prison Project member Edgy Lee conceived, planned and worked with WCCC staff to carry out this wonderful, first-of-its-kind artwork inside the Women’s Community Correctional Center,” noted former Gov. Linda Lingle, the driving force behind WPP and its mission. “Not only will the murals bring beauty to the dreary prison for years to come, they have given incarcerated women a chance to put their artistic talents to good use by working side-by-side with some of Hawai‘i’s best-known muralists. All of us at WPP thank Public Safety Director Tommy Johnson and WCCC Warden Noni Guillonta for their enthusiastic support for this project, as well as staff members Candace Beale and Larson Medina for their help and support.” 

The first mural, in the courtyard of the Maunawili Cottage on the prison’s Kailua campus, was completed in September under the direction of Braden, a classically trained painter who specializes in portraying beaches and endangered shorelines. Braden was touched by the diligence and talent of the women who assisted with the mural and the unconditional support offered by inmates as the mural came to life. 

“Despite the harsh restrictions on their daily lives, or maybe because of them, the constant shout out of encouragement by fellow inmates passing by — “I love you!!” or “the beach is beautiful!” — made you forget for an instant that you were in the only women’s prison in the state of Hawai‘i,” said Braden. 

WCCC Warden Noni Guillonta echoed Braden’s sentiment. “It is very rewarding walking around in our facility and seeing the beautifully hand-painted murals, especially knowing that ladies charged to our care were able to assist in bringing this vision to life,” said Guillonta. “I would like to thank Edgy Lee and the Women’s Prison Project for being relentless with us to ensure the project received the attention is deserved.” 

Three of the women who worked on the murals reflected on the impact of their work on them and others in the facility. 

“Being part of creating something beautiful with the community — as the community — this is what rehabilitation is all about,” noted Jessica Hinebaugh.  

“Working with Bill Braden was an unforgettable experience, something I never thought I’d have a chance to do, but have always wanted to do,” said Dana Makekau.

Kiana Kalima simply stated: “I draw, I paint, I create, I inspire.”

Kaulukukui and the resident artists recently completed a second mural at Kaʻala Cottage. A date has not been set for the creation of the third mural, at Olomana Cottage, to be led by Enos.

In addition to the donation of supplies, the murals were made possible by generous monetary donations from five individuals: Elizabeth Rice Grossman, Lauran and Marie Bromley, Diane Chen, Lynn Babington and Masako Shinn, as well as from The Creative City, a nonprofit founded and directed by Karen Chang and Emi Anamizu. 

“The Creative City is honored to be part of this important project and we applaud the women, staff, artists and community leaders for bringing the mural program to life,” said Chang. 

Donor Elizabeth Grossman expressed delight at the impact the murals make on the cottage living spaces. “Wonderful art provokes thought, creates joy and transports us to places outside of our own environment,” said Grossman. “I hope the women who helped create these murals found joy in making them, and I hope the murals continue to bring joy to all of the residents at WCCC.”