The Maui Arts and Cultural Center Returns

Maui Arts and Cultural Center welcomed its first live performances following the pandemic

Maui Arts and Cultural Center welcomed its first live performances following the pandemic

By Carin Enovijas

On Sunday, June 27, following a 15-month “intermission” imposed by COVID-19, the Maui Arts and Cultural Center hosted the 30th annual Kī Hōʻalu Festival before a socially distanced live audience of approximately 700. Small “pods” of up to four guests were seated in the open-air A&B Amphitheater. Pre-COVID, the free event traditionally attracted as many as 3,000 Maui residents and visitors. 

Unlike past festivals, no lawn chairs or blankets were allowed. Temperature checks were conducted at the gates, and masks were required when guests were not actively eating or drinking. Performers were also socially distanced on stage and tested for COVID-19 prior to the event. This year’s line-up of slack-key masters included John Cruz, Jeff Peterson, Kevin Brown and Ola Hou, George Kahumoku Jr., Ledward Kaʻapana, Kamuela Kahoano, Kawika Kahiapo, Danny Carvalho, George Kuo, and Paul Togioka.

“You really are a sight for sore eyes,” said Art Vento, president and CEO of the MACC, welcoming the public back for the annual musical celebration of local culture. 

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino issued a proclamation in honor of the festival’s 30-year history. “I want to make sure that all of you know that this is part of Maui County’s culture. This is part of what we live for and what we all work hard for,” Victorino said.  

The mayor cheered on locals who acknowledged getting vaccinated so that Maui can safely enjoy more live, in-person events at the MACC. He also credited Vento, the MACC’s board of directors, and the staff for continuing to deliver “leading edge” entertainment during the shutdown. This included a variety of taped, live streamed, and socially-distanced events. Popular Saturday night drive-in movies and concerts gave way to “Honk-a-Hou,” the socially-distanced, percussive gesture of approval and encouragement for performers to play just one more song. “Being creative has always been Art’s forte,” said Victorino, 

“These last 15 months have been the longest seven years of our lives,” quipped Vento. “There are some traditions that COVID cannot defeat.”

Pod seating for outdoor shows at the A&B Amphitheater attracted record audience numbers for live shows by comedian Jim Gaffigan and Kolohe Kai, and more shows will be announced soon.

On July 31, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, administered by the Small Business Association (SBA) and funded largely by the American Rescue Plan, announced that the Maui Arts & Cultural Center was awarded $643,790 in federal funding. The program helps small, independent venues and performers recover from financial losses suffered due to COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“[The SVOG award] affirms that our community-centric approach will ultimately result in much needed support,” Vento said. “Challenging times require creative solutions, and the MACC will continue to do exactly that, until this pandemic is in the past.” 

Vento cited that pre-COVID, the arts sector contributed $763.6 billion annually to the U.S. economy. “That’s about 4.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing, or the sports industry, which contributed $95.9 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2019. The SVOG became an investment in the future U.S. economy,” Vento said. 

The MACC has been the beneficiary of the generosity of many loyal donors over the past 17 months and the recent receipt of the SVOG grant was a welcome addition to that.

For more information about upcoming events at The Maui Arts and Cultural Center visit

Photo courtesy: Maui Arts and Cultural Center

Maui Times