Campbell High School teacher becomes 'resident artist' at Ewa Beach library

How Garret Kojima's classroom vision turned into an interactive, community experience

For years, James Campbell High School Librarian Sandy Park had a vision for the perfect painting to display on the wall of Ewa Beach Public and School Library. 

When digital photography teacher Garret Kojima approached her to showcase his students’ photography last year, his talents outside the classroom also captured her interest.

“When I saw Garret's paintings of the ocean, I was immediately drawn to the color and light, and I approached him about doing a painting,” she said.

Kojima has since become a regular at the library, working at his easel by the front door every Monday after school. Library patrons of all ages were thrilled to see an artist in action, and Kojima often encouraged them to pick up a brush and join him.

“I have a lot of little kids, they always come by. A lot of them watch. In the beginning, when I was sketching it out, I let them paint on it, and then I would paint over it,” Kojima said. “There’s a lady who comes by every so often and asks questions.”

Digital media teacher Melissa Torres assists when she can. “(Kojima) told me how he started the project and would love help, so I offered I would. I think it is awesome that he is wanting to do a project to help bring more art and local culture to the library," she said.

Toward the end of the school year, Kojima, who is in his second year of teaching at Campbell, plans to put his students’ photography on display. But for now, Kojima and Torres are in the fluorescent spotlight, sharing their love of art with each brush stroke.

Kojima calls the painting, still a work in progress, “Neva say Ewa,” a glimpse of the surf action off Ewa Beach with Waikiki and Diamond Head in the background.

It’s become an unexpected, yet welcome, avenue in his overall mission to build the library as a hub for student art.

“I like sharing. That’s why I got into teaching,” Kojima said. “A lot of kids might be afraid to stretch themselves creatively, like they might not be good enough, so I want them to take that chance and show the world what they can do.”

You can follow Kojima’s progress on the Friends of Ewa Beach Library’s Facebook page.

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