Painted-over mural in Kahuku upsets artist's family, community

KAHUKU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A piece of artwork on Oahu's north shore is stirring up controversy.

Late-local artist Ron Artis painted a mural on the side of Kahuku Medical Center in 2008, after his wife says he was asked to help brighten up the hospital's appearance in an effort to save the hospital from going bankrupt.

He and his children got input from the community and ended up painting a depiction of Kahuku's past plantation days.

Nine years later, Artis' wife says the hospital is threatening to paint over it.

"This is a devastation and a destruction to personal property," said Victoria Artis.

By Sunday, almost the entire mural was already painted over.

Artis says the hospital never consulted with her before beginning the work last week and that staff violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which protects artists' moral rights.

"They put in a lot of hard work," said Kahuku resident Jeanie Sewell. "This wasn't for them, this was for the community."

Artis says she and her kids will continue to fight to keep her husband's legacy alive.

"He would come back and do it all over again and that's what we are prepared to do," Artis said.

The Kahuku Medical Center issued the following statement on Sunday:

"We want to express our profound gratitude to the Artis family for the mural painted in 2008 on the front facing wall of Kahuku Medical Center (KMC).

The hospital, as most North Shore and Ko'olauloa residents know, went through financial hardship and many lost faith in the institution. It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication by the staff, board of directors, hospital administration, and the community to bring this much-needed institution up to 21st century standards.

As part of that fresh start, the hospital was rebranded as Kahuku Medical Center, now a medical and wellness center with expanded services and a growing campus. A next step in our strategic plan is to expand the campus with new services and to refresh the exterior of the buildings. Our goal is to create a cohesive, fresh medical center campus that welcomes a new era for our community.

The mural and its important story will be preserved at Kahuku Medical Center through photographs and other documentation with input from Kahuku historian Angel Ramos."

Artis died in 2010 after suffering an apparent heart attack. He painted 900 murals across Hawaii.

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