The Volcano Art Center Gallery is just a short walk from the Kilauea Visitors Center at the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located within the historic 1877 Volcano House Hotel, the Gallery provides a wide assortment of local artwork and handicrafts, ranging from traditional to contemporary.
The Gallery is operated by the Volcano Art Center (VAC), a nonprofit, tax-exempt, educational organization, first established in 1974. Its mission is "to promote, develop, and perpetuate the artistic and cultural heritage of Hawaii's people and environment through activities in the visual, literary, and performing arts.''
Toward this end, the VAC Gallery found a natural home at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where Pele, the fiery Hawaiian goddess of the volcano, was said to dwell. The ground here was long considered sacred. It inspired the local people to develop their crafts, songs, dances, and legends. Even now, the area still attracts artists, writers, performers, educators and scientists by the thousands.
Displays in the Gallery range from elegant koa wood carvings and handmade glass to fine art. There are also books, clothing items, music, and jewelry for sale here, in addition to ceramics, prints, painting, and sculpture. Each piece selected as part of the Gallery's collection evokes the "aloha spirit,'' culture and environment of Hawaii, with special emphasis on the heritage of the Big Island. Some 300 local artists are represented.
The VAC also organizes occasional Hawaiian arts and crafts demonstrations on the Gallery's front porch. Hawaiian music lessons, Hawaiian culture and language classes, and special workshops are conducted here, too. There are also traditional hula dance performances held at the pa hula, which is located in the grassy area adjacent to the hotel. In fact, the Gallery's "Na Mea Hawaii Hula Kahiko'' performance has won a number of awards.
The Gallery operates under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. In 2004, the VAC finished construction of new administrative offices at Niaulani, where additional space allows greater opportunity for teaching and performances, development of new programs, and the creation of an Education Center, a glass and ceramic studio, and visiting artist's residence.
Especially for children, the VAC Gallery organizes an annual arts summer camp. Known as "Camp Likolehua: Summer Arts for Youth.'' it gives children and teens the opportunity to explore and develop potential in the visual and performing arts. Enrollment is limited so that instruction can be personalized. The camp experience culminates on it last day with a grand finale showcase of the participants' work.
The Volcano Art Center Gallery is open from 9am to 5pm daily, except Christmas. The mailing address is Volcano Art Center, P.O. Box 129, Volcano, Hawaii 96785, and the Gallery can be reached by taking State Highway 11 about 30 miles south of Hilo. Parking for Gallery visitors is available in front of the Kilauea Visitors Center.