Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell this morning unveiled the new Downtown Art Center on the second floor of Chinatown Gateway Plaza.
“It’s just a perfect setting to open up an art center here, where everything started, and it continues to tell stories about who we are as a people,” said Caldwell during a press conference. “And art is much about that…Life doesn’t end with a pandemic. In fact, we fight for life in a pandemic. Life is worth living because of the creativity that comes from it.”
It’s a dream come true for the center’s executive director Sandy Pohl, also the owner of Louis Pohl Gallery, who is carrying on the legacy of several artists that dreamed of a downtown art center in 1995.
“It’s unbelievable timing,” said Pohl. “We need a home for the arts, not just two- and three-dimensional art, but for music. The spaces will be multipurpose. We can have small music workshops as well as big ones, and we’re open to everything.”
The 6,000-square-foot space at 1041 Nuuanu Avenue opened the last weekend of October, and is currently hosting the “Hawai‘i Craftsmen Annual Statewide Exhibition 2020” through Saturday.
Pohl said it will be used for art exhibits, as well as for classes and other arts activities that can include creative writing, music, and other special events. She is hoping to be able to transform another 4,000 square feet into conference rooms.
Having a space for the arts is especially important right now, she said, since others, including the Honolulu Museum of Art School, are currently closed.
The discussion about transforming the space into the Downtown Art Center with the city, which leased the space, has been in the works for at least four years. The Hawaii State Legislature also offered a $75,000 grant to help establish the center.
Pohl said she was grateful to the city and Caldwell administration for the opportunity and to the community for welcoming the space, which volunteers transformed in three weeks, with the help of donations.
“It’s something that we needed for a long time, and we think that there’s a future for it,” she said, “that it will actually be an economic development driver so that we can diversify our industry so the creatives, the arts, will take a major space. And that tourism, people from all over the world, some day might come to this space and check out the artwork.”
Pohl said she has an upcoming holiday art sale, along with several more exhibits penciled in for the Downtown Art Center. She also expects to launch an “Art on the Avenue” every second Saturday, showcasing six or seven art galleries on Nuuanu Avenue, in January.