Hilton Alves

Photo from Shigeru Ono

Photo from Shigeru Ono

Nearly 800 students at Kanoelani Elementary School in Waipahu spent two days in September painting marine life on a campus wall alongside North Shore-based artist Hilton Alves. The resulting mural, which depicts a colorful sunset over the ocean, marked Alves’ 14th installment of artwork with his Surf Art Kids project.

Surf Art Kids aims to instill a respect for the ocean in youths while educating them about environmental awareness via art.

“Being a surfer, you see marine life all around you, and you see Mother Nature changing because of pollution,” Alves says. “I use Surf Art Kids to spread the message through art that we can protect the environment and we can make a difference in our communities.”

Alves has been working as a professional artist since 2000. While he focuses on painting, he also has dabbled in sculptures and screen printing. He launched Surf Art Kids in Brazil, where he lived prior to coming to the Islands in 2007 for a stand-up paddling competition. While he was here, he led a mural painting session at Waialua Elementary. Seeing the community’s enthusiasm, he decided to expand the project locally.

“I love doing big murals because it is really fun and you can involve a lot of people,” he says. “You see it when people look at the huge paintings, they can’t help but smile.”

Through Surf Art Kids, Alves also has worked with Sunset Beach Elementary, Laie Elementary and Kahuku High schools to create collaborative murals. Surf Art Kids also hosts live art exhibitions, instructs students in various art techniques and creates paintings for hospitals and organizations that serve children with special needs.

The piece at Kanoelani Elementary also was a part of the school’s anti-bullying campaign. The students got the chance to paint alongside Alves, but the catch was they could only paint positive images – and they had to work together. Older students drew outlines for the animals, while the younger kids filled them in with vibrant colors.

“They would do things like paint the happiest little fish, so they really got in the spirit,” Alves says. “It was really nice to see. There were some kids who might not get along, but they were all painting the mural together as friends.”

In addition to Surf Art Kids, Alves also currently is working on another project – 101 Perfect Wave Murals, in which he will paint 101 wave pieces around the world. He recently completed the first of the series in downtown Honolulu. Next up is Brazil, followed by California. The goal of the project is to inspire people to conserve the ocean.

Surf Art Kids continually looks for community partners to volunteer or donate. To get involved or for more information, visit surfartkids.org.