Art on the Zoo Fence in Waikiki

by Gray Cargill on February 26, 2014

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“Art on the Zoo Fence” is a weekly event that has been held in Waikiki since 1953. Every weekend, local artists display their work along the fence of the Honolulu Zoo on Montserrat Avenue. Why there? You’d have to ask them. But I liked the setting. It was shady, making it a bit cooler (and probably better for the artwork) than if it were in the direct sunlight.

I am not an art aficionado by any stretch of the imagination. But I had read about Art on the Zoo Fence and thought it sounded like a cool way to spend some time on a Saturday morning. It’s within walking distance of many Waikiki hotels (and was very close to mine). Yet it’s just far enough away from the crowds on Kalakaua Avenue that there’s plenty of space to admire the art up close and a little afar. So I wandered over to check it out.

It was delightful. There are watercolors, oils, acrylics, photography, and works on aluminum (which was a first for me; I’ve never seen that before). Most of the paintings depicted traditional Hawaiian landscapes and motifs, making the paintings and prints a perfect souvenir to bring home from the Islands. There were landscapes featuring palm trees and beaches, volcanoes and mountains with their deep green folds, surfers’ dream waves, sea turtles, hula dancers, sea shells, and native flowers.


Art on the Zoo Fence

The artists who display here are amazingly talented.


What I really appreciated most about Art on the Zoo Fence was the presence of the artists. They were right there so you could ask them questions and just chat with them a bit. You don’t always have that opportunity when visiting a gallery or when purchasing a work of art.

I chatted with Kristine Provenza, a transplant from Vancouver, Canada, who paints in pastel watercolors. I asked her how a visitor like me would get the art home if purchased. (You couldn’t exactly tuck it in your suitcase, if you know what I mean.) She said she takes care of all that for the buyer. She’ll professionally roll the canvas, then ship it to the buyer, who will then have to take it to an art shop to get it stretched out again.

I also spoke with Doug Boyd, whose landscapes were stunning sunsets and waves and mist-shrouded mountains. Many were painted on smaller canvases that would work well for people with limited wall space. Doug told  me he’d been painting off and on for  years but finally decided to start taking it seriously when he began displaying his work at Art on the Zoo Fence 18 years ago.

It was windy and a bit overcast that day. I had been wondering what happens if and when it rains. So I asked him.

He said the artists scramble to cover everything with plastic. He starts with his less expensive prints, because they’re more vulnerable and will be ruined if they get wet. His larger works are varnished, so they’re pretty impervious to the rain.

I didn’t speak with Bailey Leung beyond complimenting him on his work, but I was very impressed with his colorful landscapes. His bio at the Art on the Zoo Fence website says he was born and raised in China, living in Hong Kong for much of his life until he moved to Hawaii. All I can say is China’s loss is Hawaii’s gain.

Art on the Zoo Fence

Artists mingle with visitors


Regardless of your taste in art, you’re likely to find something you like at this weekly event. (Looking for something whimsical? Damon Ramsey has a series of paintings based on a cartoon character he’s created called “The Tiki”. His paintings are fun and colorful and feature The Tiki in a variety of settings and situations.)

In short, this was a great way to spend an hour on a weekend in Waikiki. I’m one of those people who prefers to spend money on experiences rather than things–and even I was tempted to buy something. In hindsight, I wish I had bought a painting of a sea turtle (I’m obsessed with them now).  What I can say is this:  If someone handed me $1,000 and said I had to spend it shopping in Waikiki, I’d make a beeline to Art on the Zoo Fence before I went anywhere else.

What You Need to Know

When: Every Saturday and Sunday, 9am-4pm

Where: Along Montserrat Avenue, on the Honolulu Zoo Fence across from Kapiolani Park.

How to Get There: It is within walking distance of many Waikiki hotels. There is parking at the park. It is accessible via city bus or Waikiki Trolley.

Who Organizes This? A nonprofit group called The Zoo Fence Artists.

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