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student painting mural
Garma painting mural

A student-designed mural blending astronomy and tropical flowers now spans the street-facing wall inside the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) courtyard. The artist, Cyan Garma, a student in the Department of Art and Art History, collaborated with IfA’s beautification committee to design the mural.

Garma was recommended by art faculty Wendy Kawabata, for his extensive mural work around Oʻahu.

student standing in front of mural
Garma standing by mural (click or tap for larger image)

Garma said he wanted to do something that had “a blend of astronomy and tropical flowers. The big flower with the large round part in the middle is supposed to represent the Sun, and some of the other round elements among the flowers represent planets. The stars above are based on the Pleiades, which is the motif in the sculpture on the machine shop wall.”

Garma said he had to take a liberty on the placement of the stars to make the art balance out.

“The idea for a mural started with a general interest in making IfA more ‘beautiful’ by incorporating student art,” said Larry Denneau, a software engineer at IfA and member of the beautification committee. “We gave the artist nearly total freedom in selecting what would go into the mural and it showcases significant talent among UH art students.”

Garma proposed some ideas similar to other mural work he has done, and the proposal was approved by IfA faculty. IfA used donated funds administered by the UH Foundation and private donations for the materials plus some compensation for the artist. Most of the funding went toward paint and scaffolding rental.

people attending reception
People at IfA reception.

Mural reception

IfA held a reception for Garma on March 24, which had more than 50 people attending—from the art department, IfA staff and students, the beautification committee and attendees who were friends and family of Garma.

Bill Unruh, IfA’s physical plant manager and member of the beautification committee, arranged for a reception and explained how the collaboration between the art department and IfA began.

The beautification committee members include: Denneau, Curt Dodds, Karen Meech, Raja Narayanan, Unruh, Roy Gal, Ben Shappee, Dan Huber, Eugene Magnier, Melissa Matsuura, Morgan Bonnet, Jennifer van Saders, Carolyn Kaichi and Alan Tokunaga. The members hope to continue projects to help beautify IfA, including a collaboration with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to design gardens around the building.

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