Juna is a 5-year old artist who lives on Maui and began painting at the age of one. His parents sensed that they had given birth to an old soul from the moment he arrived.
Juna’s natural gifts as an artist and lover of many things manifested from a very early age. For his first birthday, he received two gifts that would prove to be a looking glass into his future: an easel with paints and a ukulele. His love for both was palpable. Every morning, Juna would wake up and strum the strings with a unique familiarity and sing to his parents. Almost immediately, he displayed a deep recognition with music. Rather than watching cartoons or playing with the usual childhood toys, he would ask to watch acoustic videos of his favorite musical artists—Jack Johnson, Michael Franti and Trevor Hall. He was drawn to poetic artists who sang from their hearts and his passion for music was immense. The same was true for painting.
His first experiences with paints and a canvas began while standing in front of his easel in diapers. At that stage, painting became a daily ritual for Juna. It was almost as though he had poems brewing in his soul that needed to be expressed through paints and colors and his free and fearless approach always seemed to guide the process. He was uniquely present and awake in his interactions with paint. Learning to paint and play music came naturally to Juna during his first few years; it seemed that he wasn’t just dabbling but rather fulfilling a dharma.
From the moment he could speak, Juna would share that his favorite colors were dark blue and dark green—the colors of the earth. Music and art were revealing themselves as gifts that had been placed into their son’s heart, and as the depth of his work began to emerge, Chris and Hong decided that it was time for a bold move. Because of their strong connection to the ocean and struggle to keep their son well in a cold and elevated climate, they uprooted from their home in Boulder, Colorado and made the move to Maui in 2013.
This move fulfilled a deeper inspiration to live in simplicity and to connect with the spiritual offerings of the islands. It also proved to be a catalyst for Juna’s passion for art, as his health and inspiration were now thriving. On a fateful Sunday in September 2014, Arjuna awoke and exclaimed, "I need to go to the arts store." Upon arriving at the store, Juna began gathering paints, brushes and the best surface he could find for what would soon become what he called, "The Maui Series." Amazed by the beauty of the work, his father, Chris, took a photo of Juna sitting behind the series and posted it on his Facebook page.
Shortly thereafter, Chris received a message from the founder of a global cancer organization called Love Hope Strength. The founder, James Chippendale, inspired by the images of Juna’s work, shared an idea that had come to him while on retreat in Vietnam. During his time in Vietnam, James had visited several cancer centers and began to see the heartbreaking effects that children are suffering today from the toxic herbicide, Agent Orange, sprayed by American forces decades earlier during the Vietnam War.
James, knowing that Juna’s mom, Hong, was Vietnamese, wondered if Juna’s work could some how help these kids. In his message, he asked Chris, “Do you think Juna would want to make his work available to help fund cancer treatment for children in Vietnam?” His response was a resounding “Yes!” Chris knew that four-year-old Juna would want to help but also knew that he would need to speak with his son before deciding. Upon asking Juna if he would like to help, Juna said, “Let’s do it!” This beautiful partnership will be unveiled along with Juna’s complete collection at Maui Kombucha on Saturday, March 7th.
When Juna's not working on his art, he spends his days reading with his family, swinging from his favorite mango tree and running on the beach with his best friend, a sweet Australian Sheppard named Liliquoi. His dream is that his art will make the world a brighter place and change the lives of children alongside his friends and partners at Love Hope Strength. When asked about why he would like to make a difference in children’s lives with his art, Juna replied, “everything is connected to us, every kitty should get to play”.