‘Wailuku Wings’ butterfly sculpture to be unveiled June 20 at Imua Discovery Garden

In his Arizona art studio, Bobby Zokaites works on his eight-foot sculpture of a butterfly that will be installed at the Imua Discovery Garden in Wailuku. Photo Courtesy: SMALL TOWN * BIG ART

Bobby Zokaites’ eight-foot public sculpture “Wailuku Wings,” created in his Arizona studio with inspiration from the Maui community, will be unveiled June 20 at the Imua Discovery Garden.

The 10 am unveiling of the butterfly sculpture will be blessed by Uncle Bill Garcia and dedicated in the honor of two children who are no longer with us – Will Smith and Charlie Naylor.

“Thanks to the loving support of their mother, Susan Naylor, the wings project was able to take flight,” said Dean Wong, executive director of Imua Family Services. “She is reminded that her children were the wings that have carried her to help children not only here on Maui, but around the world.”

The unveiling cermony also launches the Imua Family Services’ first annual Butterfly Festival, which runs from 4 to 7 pm, also on June 20.

Zokaites’ butterfly sculpture, Wailuku’s latest public art project, was the result of SMALL TOWN * BIG ART’s 2021 call-to-artists. He was selected by a community jury for his extraordinary artistic talent and a thoughtful approach to designing a standalone sculpture that inspires inclusion, inspiration and discovery for the children served at Imua Family Services and visitors to the Imua Discovery Garden, located at the former Yokouchi Estate, 2471 W. Main St. in Wailuku.


Zokaites worked four months of the steel framed sculpture with colorful polyurethane paneling. It was shipped in pieces by Matson transportation company from Tempe, AZ, to Wailuku; and is being installed this week with the help of local artist Michael Takemoto.


For the project, Zokaites said his studio conducted research on Imua, butterfly wing mechanics, species native to Hawaiʻi and the monkeypod trees at the Imua Discovery Garden.

“Did you know that butterflies have four times the surface area in their wings then other insects of the same weight?” he said in a news release. “This helps produce the characteristic ‘flutter’ that Dean described, and it is an incredible skill, observable in slow motion.

“There is a moment just before takeoff, where the wing is bending and the body is contracting … it is the posture of preparation, expectation and flight. The composition of the sculpture is based on this posture.”


Wong said: “No matter our age, it is never too late for us to transform and reach our full potential. That is the idea we wish to inspire within our visitors at Imua Discovery Garden, and Bobby’s amazing sculpture will help us achieve that.”

Per the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART public art making process, Zokaites worked with local community members to design a blueprint of his sculpture for review. This included Wailuku-based outings with Wong, Maui Historical Society’s Sissy Lake-Farm, Maui Public Art Corps’ Kelly McHugh-White, County of Maui’s Erin Wade, Hawaiʻi Land Trust’s Scott Fisher and Mauna Kahālāwai’s Kim Thayer. He also had online consultations with Bishop Museum Entomology Collections Manager Jeremy Frank and master lauhala weaver Mike Nahoʻopiʻi, who also serves as Executive Director of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.

Artist Bobby Zokaites got some inspiration for his “Wailuku Wings” sculpture during Maui outings into nature. Photo Courtesy: SMALL TOWN * BIG ART

“I hope that articulating the voice and vision of the Imua communities in a sculptural aesthetic that is bold, colorful and enduring will provide an iconic visual statement of vibrancy, imagination and connection,” Zokaites said. “It is integral to my practice that my work connects people to one another and their community in new ways, creating new and lasting experiences.”

Under the guidance of Lake-Farm, Zokaites selected the following ōlelo noʻeau to further root his piece in a sense of place: I mohala no ka Lehua i ke ke ʻekeʻehi ʻia e ka ua. The translation: Lehua blossoms unfold because the rains tread upon them. It is the rain that brings forth the lehua blossoms. So do gentle words bring forth much that is desired.

The Butterfly Festival also will mark the kick-off for Imua Discovery Garden’s open hours for the public to view the sculpture and enjoy the garden. While the property continues to be under development, visitors will be welcome Tuesdays through Fridays, from 11 am to 4 pm Street parking only. Closed for holidays and special events.

For a weekly listing of Maui music and other events, go to Maui Entertainment, Arts, Community, June 9-15 and click here.