Ministry and watercolor

KOLOA — For years painting watercolors of Hawaii’s flowers kept Alan Akana connected to his home, even though he was traveling all over the United States working in ministry.

Born into a Native Hawaiian family on Hawaii Island, Akana lived and worked in churches in Montana, Utah, Texas and California before accepting his role as pastor of Koloa Union Church.

“Everywhere I went, I kept doing watercolors of Hawaii’s flowers,” he said. “I went home about once a year and took photographs of all the flowers and then I’d paint them while I was away.”

Sunday, he’s celebrating 25 years of watercolor and five years of ministry back in his home state of Hawaii with an open house at the Alan Akana Gallery — which happens to also be his living room and the parsonage for Koloa Union Church.

“I asked the church and they gave me the go ahead to have the gallery in my living room and dining room five days a week,” Akana said. “That was two years ago.”

And the money doesn’t go back into Akana’s pocket. “It’s a fundraiser to care for the historic parsonage and the grounds,” he said.

After spending years on the Mainland, where he originally moved to find work, Akana said he turned his sights back to Hawaii in order to be closer to home. Six months before he took the job at Koloa Union Church is when his art was first featured in a gallery in San Francisco.

“It caught me off guard because it was just a hobby,” Akana said. “But more than 100 people showed up and almost everyone bought something.”

That put a pep in his step and planted the seeds for the parsonage art gallery that would come later, but really Akana’s goal at that time was the same as it is today: make a life out of ministry and watercolor.

“I watercolor almost every day for an hour or so before I go to the church and start work there,” he said. “I had some sense of this when I was looking and wanted to move back and at Koloa Union Church they were incredibly supportive. They’re very accepting of me as a minister and as an artist.”

The home gallery came about when Akana’s son was at home between sessions at school in 2016. Akana had the idea and the father-son project was born.

The Koloa Union Church’s Smith Memorial Parsonage sits on part of the historic Dr. and Mrs. Smith orchard and welcomes visitors to the church and to view the gallery with beautiful landscaping.

Inside, Akana said people are usually a bit stunned to find out the gallery is also his home.

“It’s a homey sort of gallery, but people are always surprised,” he said. “People are receptive though.”

Sunday, December 30, Akana is hosting a free open house at the gallery from 2 to 5 p.m. in Koloa. Refreshments and door prizes will be available, paintings will be for sale and Akana will be around to talk story.

More info: 353-1347