Rebuilding Maui’s Creative Community: Agora Gallery Director’s Call for Support

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Sabrina Guilbertson and Taryn Alessandro
Sabrina and Taryn in their college days

15 years ago, Taryn, my closest friend from art school, contemplated the New York art market. We were fresh out of undergrad, dazzled by what it meant to be young professionals in the city, and eager to be a part of the greatest art scene in the world–the glamour, the grind, and everything in between. We interned at galleries during the day, picked up waitressing shifts at night, painted in the tiniest of apartment nooks, and immersed ourselves in a sea of creatives at every chance we could. From fashion week errands to gallery openings to exchanges in the seedy strip of the early bare-boned Bushwick artist lofts–we showed up. Like so many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed twenty-somethings, we ran from sun up to sun down to sun up, and it was all worth it, because to us, the city was our oyster, and the promise was palpable.

Those early days were a blur, and life moved quickly. Milestones and unexpected events started to stack up, imposing moments of pause on our personal rat races. We were faced with the all too familiar challenges of starting art practices in a highly competitive market. We were naive and hopefully optimistic. We didn’t give up, but the truth is, in the effort of simply keeping up, the dream sat quietly in the background, creeping further away from our realities. 

Sabrina Gilbertson and Taryn Alessandro
Sabrina and Taryn at Taryn Alessandro Fine Art, Wailuku, HI

On a whim, with a handful of college friends, Taryn packed up her paints and took a trip to Maui. Her stay was meant to be brief, while she contemplated her next moves in life, love, and art. But like many, she was immediately enchanted by the island’s inspiring landscape, the people, and the pace of life. Maui was a warm blanket, a comfort she didn’t know she had been missing. It was more than paradise–to her, it was home. She decided right then to make the bold departure from the Mainland and has never looked back. 

Taryn Alessandro
Fridays by Taryn Alessandro, mixed media on panel, 16×12 inches, 2004

Today, Taryn Alessandro is one of Maui’s leading artists. Her dedication has afforded her a successful practice, and she continues to draw inspiration from natural surroundings, incorporating up-cycled materials into her mixed media paintings. Her work imbues storytelling and evokes memory through a thoughtful approach, which captures the sweeping beauty of daily island life. 

While our paths in the arts have fulfilled us in different ways, it’s impossible not to feel heart-wrenched by the toll the Maui wildfires have taken on the livelihoods of so many. The Lahaina art community has been devastated. They are not only grieving loved ones, but mourning the loss of countless artworks, studios, and a thriving art community, beloved by tourists and locals alike. 

Sadly, art supplies are not deemed “necessary” by FEMA and insurance.  Many of these artists and galleries are largely underinsured.  With Lahaina being a visual arts hub for over fifty years, a staggering amount of artwork and beloved studios were reduced to ashes. A majority of the affected artists are self-employed and rely on artwork sales as their sole source of income.

Maui wildfires
Sargent’s Fine Art in Lahaina after the Maui wildfires

To show our support during the month of September, we will be accepting donated art supplies to send to affected artists, and hope you’ll join us in this effort.  For more information on how you can help, please send an email to

I can’t begin to speak to the loss Maui is feeling right now, but I know one thing for certain: art has the power to heal, connect, and lift us up. It’s a long road ahead to rebuilding what they once had, but as one of countless hearts that have been touched by the spirit and resilience of this special place, I’m here for it.


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2 responses to “Rebuilding Maui’s Creative Community: Agora Gallery Director’s Call for Support”

  1. Susan Garts avatar

    Good people sharing….this can save the world

  2. Ellen avatar

    Beautifully written and moving