Painting on location is one of the purest forms of recording the culture and landscape of a particular place. Plein air painting has taken place in Hawaii as far back as the late 1800’s, when D. Howard Hitchcock prolifically painted the Island scenery. In the tradition of plein air annual exhibitions such as Plein Air Painters of America (founded 1986) at Avalon, Catalina Island and The Carmel Art Festival (since 1994), plein air paintings have seen its popularity grow steadily and gained a noticeable spot in the world art market, among the most prestigious and valuable works of art.
The event idea evolved from a conversation in 2001 between California painter, John Cosby and Maui painter, Ronaldo Macedo. The idea of holding a plein air event on Maui was to unite some of the best Island plein air painters with some of the best mainland plein air painters into ‘one’ event. Consequently, the public would be able to watch 25 artists working on location and then experience the unveiling of 100 paintings created during the week.
In 2002 Kauai’s, Saim Caglayan, and Maui’s, Ronaldo Macedo, founded Islanders- Hawaii Plein Air Painters who with the help of its members from Maui, Oahu, Lanai, Big Island and Kauai, became the core artistic advisors for the event.
In the winter of 2004, Islanders invited a few artists to Maui for a test run. The event was called ‘Eat Fish, Drink Mai-Tais and Paint Out.’ Artists successfully painted, drank mai-tais and floated in the shallows of Kapalua Bay, brainstorming about the future Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational.
By early 2005 Islanders had the support of The LahainaTown Action Committee and its executive director and visionary, Theo Morrison. Village Galleries – Maui, was selected as the venue. The event gained community support from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Kapalua, Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine, Starbucks, and the Pioneer Inn to name a few.
February 2006, visiting artists from the mainland and outer Islands were greeted with open arms by Maui’s host families, coordinated by volunteer Kapalua resident, Lois Reiswig, and the artists participated in the first Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational.
From 2006 on, a team of organizers – event coordinators, artists, volunteers and sponsors carry on their efforts to show Maui’s visitors and its local residents alike the highest caliber of plein air work produced in Hawaii. Fresh works of art encapsulating forever the Island landscape. In addition, this event also strives to give back to the art community and its youth. In 2008, Village Galleries contributed $5,000 from the event to Lahainaluna High School’s Art Department. Starting in 2009, a percentage from event sponsored workshop fees and event revenues go towards a youth art project/scholarship fund such as the Plein Air for the Young at Art held in 2009.