Noelani Rickard is the Special Projects and Office Manager of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation. I interviewed her in February of 2011 at the Baldwin Home Museum in Lahaina. We discussed the work of the Foundation, the Museum, hula dancing, and her special love of the town of Lahaina, where she was born. See the complete interview below.
Jon: What is the Lahaina Restoration Foundation?
Noelani: The Lahaina Restoration Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to restore, maintain and preserve the physical and cultural legacies and history of the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Lahaina. The Foundation oversees and maintains 11 major historic structures in Lahaina including the Baldwin Home Museum, Hale Pa‘i, Lahaina Heritage Museum, Old Lahaina Prison, Wo Hing Museum, Old Lahaina Courthouse and maintains public parks and spaces in Historic Lahaina Town. The Foundation is also responsible for community events such as the annual Lahaina Plantation Days and Progressive Dinner Party Through Lahaina’s Historic Sites. We conduct a number of fundraisers throughout the year the most recent being an online auction and the BUY-A-BRICK project where funds raised help to restore the old mill smokestack, the last remaining piece of the old Pioneer Mill and a landmark in Lahaina, erected in 1928 when the sugar industry dominated the islands of Hawaii. Lahaina Restoration Foundation is also credited for restoring many other historic buildings in Lahaina and puts forth their best efforts to keep Lahaina’s history alive through the preservation of buildings, artifacts, and photos.
Jon: What is the Baldwin Home Museum?
Noelani: The Baldwin Home is just one out of the 6 museums that we maintain. It was built in 1834, completed in 1835, and served as the home of a practicing physician, Rev. Dwight Baldwin who is credited for saving the people of Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i from the scourge of smallpox during the terrible epidemic of 1853. The home itself, its household furniture, aged photographs, artifacts, displays and library present a fascinating picture of the busy Sandwich Isles life as lived by a missionary who was both a physician and a constructive community force. More information on the museum can be found on our website (www.lahainarestoration.org).
Jon: What is your job?
Noelani: It is an honor to serve this organization as the Special Projects & Office Manager and Graphic Designer. I’m responsible for programs such as the Hawaiian Music Series free concerts on the lawn of Baldwin Home, as well as public relations, marketing, and web development. Being born and raised right here in Lahaina, it is an extremely rewarding position and am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the Foundation’s accomplishments.
Jon: How did you get involved with the Baldwin Home or with the Lahaina Restoration Foundation?
Noelani: I learned of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation at a young age. A few of my aunties were some of the first docents at the Baldwin Home Museum. When I came along, my grandma Nani Leong, whom I absolutely cherished, would take me along with her senior citizens gang to do lei making on the front lawn. She was really responsible for instilling in me the overwhelming love and passion I have for my hometown and culture. After graduating from Lahainaluna in 2001, I attended college in California and remained there for 5 years, however Lahaina remained my home. I returned from the mainland and found work in the hotel industry. It was nothing less than a blessing when an administration position became available with the Foundation in 2008 under accomplished Executive Director Theo Morrison. Without a minute of hesitation I applied for the job and have since been promoted to the Special Projects & Office Manager. It has not only been the most rewarding job I’ve had but also a very special tie I have to my grandmother who I lost early last year.
Jon: What you like about living on Maui?
Noelani: Being born and raised in Lahaina has truly been amazing. Lahaina has a sense of mana; spiritual power as it is the center of all the islands. Although a small town, it is deeply rooted in history & culture and has survived many eras; getting stronger with each wave of change. Lahaina has an extraordinary history of reinventing itself. It’s painted history includes: the residence of Hawaii’s highest chiefs, the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, the first secondary school established west of the Rockies (Lahainaluna), a popular whaling port, the center of a booming sugar industry and, today, a top travel destination.
Jon: I saw you hula dancing at a concert on the lawn of the Baldwin Home. How did you get involved with hula?
Noelani: I started dancing at the age of 3. As anyone would agree, hula is a beautiful art which is what inspires many to join. Our halau (hula group) would perform at community events, shopping centers, and parties. At the age of 13, I began dancing professionally for Tihati Productions, the biggest Polynesian production company in Hawaii.
Aside from being a beautiful art, hula has a very important purpose. Hula has gone through many stages with the first being a very sacred practice done by only men and used by our ancestors to pass on history/knowledge. Before accompanied by melodic music, pahu (drums) and ancient chants set the tone for the dance. It proved to be very efficient as Hawaiians did not have a written language prior to Western contact. Over the years, women were granted permission to perform the art and took on a much softer approach, eventually evolving to the graceful dance you see today. Old Chants are still performed holding priceless knowledge of battles, lineage, genealogy and legends told just as it was by our ancestors.
The art of hula is becoming one with the music and telling a story through your eyes, motions, hands, hips, and body. You can watch a hula and get an idea of what the song is about just by the motions, or the emotion portrayed by the performer. It’s been my passion since as long as I can remember.
Jon: Please tell me about the free monthly concerts at the Baldwin Home.
Noelani: The Hawaiian Music Series was the idea of Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s Executive Director, Theo Morrison. The program is supported by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and grant funds from the County of Maui – Office of Economic Development and the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which is how we pay for the entertainers. Each month we have a different artist, though some entertainers may perform a few times throughout the year. Call (808) 661-3262 for the current schedule.