Honolulu’s vibrant art scene is based mainly in the Downtown-Chinatown district. The area, which is rapidly becoming the state’s center for cultural preservation and the fine arts, boasts a wide variety of galleries showing works by local artists and craftsmen, providing workshops and participating in popular art-tour events. We profile 10 galleries and artist-run centers show true support for their local community and its artists.
Community arts center The ARTS at Marks Garage attracts over 30,000 people per year. Visitors are drawn to its varied exhibition program which features a new show every month, alongside its busy calendar of events that includes over 150 performances, screenings, lectures, and workshops. The ARTS at Marks Garage is home to over a dozen performance and visual arts groups, and offers a range of creative classes for the neighborhood community with a focus on classes for young people. The center is also recognized for its sponsorship of the creative revitalization of Honolulu’s Downtown-Chinatown area, providing support through neighborhood relations, street festivals, First Friday Gallery Walks, and numerous other celebrations. The First Friday Gallery Walk began in 2003 as a free, self-guided tour around the galleries and studios in the area, all of which hold rotating art exhibitions and provide entertainment specifically for the event.
Founded by Mike and Sheri Schnack, Cedar Street Galleries is located in midtown Honolulu. The gallery only displays works by local artists, with over 150 represented. The result is a stunning collection of over 900 original works of Hawaiian art. One of the artists represented by Cedar Street Galleries is Mike Schnack’s old neighbor and accomplished local artist, Shirley Russell. Her paintings are an important feature of the gallery because they were Schnack’s first experience of contemporary art. Other artists who have exhibited at Cedar Street Galleries include mixed-media artist Madge Tennent, jewelry artist Debra Casey, ceramicist Tim Freeman, and wood sculptor Francisco Clemente.
The Louis Pohl Gallery funds the Louis Pohl Foundation, which serves to preserve the legacy and artwork of its namesake, promote Hawaiian artists and art education programs, and improve the quality of life within the local community. Like Louis Pohl, the gallery is a strong advocate for Hawaiian artists, encouraging emerging and established artists and introducing fine art into the community. The gallery holds a diverse program of month-long exhibitions by invited guest artists alongside its collective display of works by resident artists, including Linda Bachrach, Hans Loffel, and Paula Rath. Showcasing a broad spectrum of works in both genre, aesthetic, and subject matter, the Louis Pohl Gallery is a key fixture in Downtown-Chinatown’s monthly First Friday and Second Saturday events.
Now in its 25th year, Nohea Gallery was established by mother-and-daughter duo Gail and Laurie Baron. This small family-run gallery has since shown great passion for local art, as well as the artists within the community. The space features original paintings by artists such as Kau’i Chun, Peter Shepard Cole, jewelry by Beach Girls Jewelry, Sonny Ching Designs, Paradisus, and Wayne Keet. Nohea also displays wood, glass, and ceramic works by local craftsmen and guest exhibitors from around the world. Committed to presenting the best in local arts and crafts, the gallery is an everyday celebration of the local artistic community, having received multiple local awards.
Independent artist-run space Pegge Hopper Gallery opened its doors in 1983. Hopper, whose original paintings, drawings, posters, and limited editions are on display at the gallery, is originally from California. She moved to Honolulu in the 1960s as the Art Director for a local ad agency before returning to her true passion, painting, in 1970, specializing in figurative and landscape painting. Alongside her own works, the Pegge Hopper Gallery also periodically presents works by other artists in group shows.
Owner and founder Robyn Buntin opened his first gallery in Hawaii in 1976, showcasing works by Hawaii-based artists alongside Japanese antiques. Buntin is an expert in Japanese and Chinese art, particularly Buddhist art and sculpture and Chinese jade. His wife Judy lends her expertise on Japanese woodblock prints. The couple exhibit a sizeable collection of Japanese antiques acquired whilst living in Japan. Now conveniently located near to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Robyn Buntin of Honolulu presents a variety of contemporary and modern artworks and antiques with a focus on Japanese, Zen, Chinese, Hawaiian, Polynesian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Himalayan, Indian, Korean and Pre-Colombian art.
Paia Contemporary Gallery opened its doors in 2007 with the ambition to be Hawaii’s finest abstract contemporary art gallery. With a core group of national and international artists working in the American Abstract Expressionist genre – including Alejandro Goya, Jessica Drenk, Joseph Segal and Jean Paul Blais – the modern art gallery has itself been curated as a work of art. Works on show feature a variety of media ranging from oil, acrylic and mixed-media paintings to abstract, ceramic, wood and glass sculptures. Paia Contemporary Gallery endeavors to explore and redefine the concept of the modern art gallery in Hawaii.
A favorite of visitors and locals alike, The Gallery at Ward Center is the island’s longest-running cooperative art gallery. Currently managed by 16 of Hawaii’s award-winning artists, the gallery was founded in 1988. They have a monthly exhibition schedule featuring painting, printmaking, sculpture, wood, ceramics, jewelry, and fiber arts, and frequently invite guest artists to exhibit. The Gallery at Ward Center also run regular ‘meet-the-artist’ events to go along with their current exhibitions. Member artists include painter Cindy Corklin, jeweller Babs Miyano-Young, ceramicist Ryan Roberts, glass artist Bud Spindt and fiber artist Lynda Sakraida, amongst others.
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The independent, artist-run Tabora Gallery is owned by Roy Gonzales Tabora, one of the world’s premier seascape painters. Roy Gonzales Tabora is the main artist featured in the gallery, alongside selected guest artists such as Earl Shimokawa, Harry Wishard, George Eguchi, and Juno Galang. The beautiful and eclectic works on show at Tabora Gallery are directly inspired by nature and Hawaii’s tropical shores. The gallery also holds special ‘meet-the-artist’ events and a regular paintNIGHT event where visitors can engage with some of Hawaii’s most talented artists and discuss their techniques and the inspiration behind their work. Tabora also has two other galleries in Hawaii: one in Lihue and another in Haleiwa.
The Honolulu Museum of Art was founded in 1927 as the largest private presenter of visual arts programs in Hawaii, with an internationally-recognized collection of over 50,000 works. The collection, which began with a gift of 4,500 works of art from Mrs. Charles Montague Cook in 1927, includes Asian, European, and American art and textiles spanning 5,000 years of artistic history. The museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation, interpretation, and teaching of visual arts, both ancient and contemporary. Alongside its varied exhibition program, the museum holds regular films and concerts, lectures, art classes, workshops and events, including the monthly ARTafterDARK party, which takes place on the last Friday of the month. These public programs are tailored to Hawaii’s ethnically diverse community, making the museum a cultural hub within the city.