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Nā Makakū participants at the Kawaii Kon conference in March 2024

The Nā Makakū Program Inspires Young Digital Artists from LT

The Nā Makakū Program Inspires Young Digital Artists from LT


An enthusiastic group of ʻōpio from Liliʻuokalani Trust attended the Kawaii Kon conference this year at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center, where they joined a crowd of 20,000 other fans of anime, gaming, and digital arts. It was an exhilarating experience for the ʻōpio, ages 13-16, who hail from Waiʻanae, Kāneʻohe, Maui, and Kauaʻi.

The youth were members of Nā Makakū, an innovative program by LT that honed their illustration skills using the Procreate digital drawing software.

Each child received an iPad on loan from LT’s Tech Lending Library to use in weekly sessions, conducted via Zoom on Tuesday evenings.

While the young artists typically used traditional sketchbooks and colored pencils, the iPad elevated their artistic game, providing new outlets for expression.


The intersection of technology and art resonates with LT’s mission to provide resources and tools for Hawaiian children to thrive.

Some of the children have limited means — they reside in rural or distant areas from LT’s hubs across the pae ʻāina (lands)

Leading the weekly sessions was Rusti Cripps, an Oʻahu-based arts educator and illustrator, who taught the students various techniques in illustration and character design. The students also had the privilege of learning from guests artists like illustrator Dru Santiago, and concept artist Brady Evans.

Kanaka artist Solomon Enos also taught a session, sharing his wisdom with the impressionable young artists. He encouraged them to embrace the moʻolelo of Hawaiʻi for inspiration and to fully immerse in the ʻāina, which he says is a boundless source of creative energy. This summer, Enos presented an exhibition, “Future Island Cultures,” at the Manini Gallery at Hawaiʻi Theatre Center, and is the artist-in-residence in Capitol Modern, the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum in downtown Honolulu.

“We were really inspired by Solomon’s message to the kamaliʻi about the significance of their story and how they have a lot to offer the world,” says Sam Guerrero, LT’s ʻŌlino Pathways coordinator and organizer of the drawing program for youth.

Nā Makakū sessions were scheduled to end in June. Upon completion, LT transformed the ʻōpio’s digital drawings into stickers, and compiled their collective works into a memory book to remind them of their growth as artists.

Originally, the Nā Makakū program began during the COVID pandemic, “as a means to give ʻōpio with similar interests a space to connect, collaborate, and enhance their skills,” Guerrero says. Virtual meetings provided a respite from the challenges they faced at home, and they eagerly anticipated each Zoom session, cherishing time spent with peers.

Nā Makakū is scheduled to resume in January 2025.