Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

SuperCity: Discover Chinatown, DiscoverArt

February 19th, 2016

There’s no question about it, we are seeing a revival in Chinatown. While some may say the area has been abandoned since the opening of a few Waikiki establishments these past 5 years those who know see that it’s sustaining and growing and remains the creative epicenter of the Honolulu scene.

Dusty Grabel and his team at Lucky Belly, Livestock and now the new Tchin Tchin! in the old thirtyninehotel space have proven that people going out these days want more than shots and a DJ. They want good food, good drinks, good wine, and a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company. No hassles to get inside, no worries about someone in the group is wearing shorts or a hat, a high probability that you will get a table or spot at the bar, and a somewhat hassle free parking in the street or municipal lot. If your plan A isn’t working there’s a plan B, C, D and E.

Miki LeeWhat I love about the Chinatown area is how versatile it can be. You can make dinner plans here, stop by a shop there, go grab a drink before here, go get nuts after there, and carry on the night over there. It’s all walking or stumbling distance and perfect for hosting guests in town that might change their mind a few times about the atmosphere they want. It’s a great district with many venues to choose from and depending on when you are there you can even pop in to an amazing shop and get gifts or apparel or window shop some galleries for great art. If it’s someone’s birthday and you’re eating early enough, the lei stands are all right there. If there was ever a matriarch of the Chinatown scene it would be Miki Lee from the Honolulu Culture and Arts District. Working for Dave Stewart (Indigo, Brasserie du Vin, eleven44, Bar35 Hawaii) since 2007 when Indigo was alive and thriving with its huge happy hour martinis, what she thought would be a year gig turned in to eight years. Anyone who’s ever spent some time in Chinatown has no doubt seen this unassuming tall woman, usually wearing a stylish fedora, always there in the room smiling when greatness is happening. I know personally, if I’m ever at an event and see Miki Lee, I know I’m at the right event.

She has quite a few venues under her belt managing many marketing programs and media for Stewart that bring back great memories including Brasserie du Vin, Indigo, eleven44, and the currently operating Bar35.

In 2016 as the HCAD she has launched “a new initiative to promote all the good things happening in the Chinatown community and attract more foot traffic to the Downtown-Chinatown area. Art activities are free and should generally be for all ages.”

The event, DiscoverArt will be a daytime event every 2nd Saturday of the month, with February 19th as the deadline for the community to sign up for the March 12th event. Use the sign up form here. Performers, artists, shops, mini-concerts, fine art, demos and comedy or theater are all encouraged to participate.

“Art brings communities together and it’s a win-win” Lee told me in an e-mail. “DiscoverArt is a collaborative effort to present different forms of art for the community at no charge. Art is being used as an attraction to bring people to the area and introduce them to different spaces.” It’s true, if you haven’t been to Chinatown in a month or even a few weeks you will be blown away by the hard work that’s been happening down there. This is very much a thriving community for small business, and one that should be supported. “Downtown-Chinatown is authentic, a little gritty, but that is the character we accept. And what you see are the passions of local, small business owners.”

“Look at every major city; they have a nightlife and entertainment area. They have a place filled with cool shops and galleries, coffee shops and the most cutting edge cafes and restaurants. They feed off each other; it’s a symbolic relationship; and we all benefit from each other’s presence. Had it not been for a few brave club owners back in the day, we would not be where we are today.”

Personally I love the character of Chinatown. The locally owned businesses and small-business vibe makes me feel good about where I’m spending my hard earned money. We can say support local but actually supporting local is how we keep a neighborhood alive.

Maui's 'Plate Lunch' special

December 10th, 2014

Since moving to Honolulu there’s been so much rhetoric I’ve forgotten from other places I’ve lived. I never say I’m chuffed to bits when I’m extremely happy, people I don’t like are never described as wankers anymore, and my questions don’t end in a higher pitched voice.

COURTESY CLIPS HAWAII A painting by "Gonzo" Mark Gonzales, one of the most influential names in skateboarding will be for sale on Saturday at Clips


A painting by Mark "The Gonz" Gonzales, one of the most influential names in skateboarding, will be on sale Saturday at Clips.

It’s embarrassing how easily I will pick up and mimic other people’s pronunciation without even realizing it. I know for a fact it's extremely annoying.

You know what phrase I love hearing in Hawaii the most? Automatic. As someone who tends to worry more than what is considered average, I just love the way so much generosity and certainty can be wrapped up so neatly in to one precise word.

Zen Yoshifuku, North Shore surf talisman and shop manager of the new Clips Hawaii, sent me some information on an art show called “Automatic” a few weeks ago and I starred it in my e-mail immediately. Not just because of the name; I also saw some key names involved that make this huge.

Curated by Maui brothers Gregg and Cory Kaplan — otherwise known as Plate Lunch — the show features artwork from some extremely reputable names in the world of surf and skate. The fact they even have access to these people is one thing; their response to the group show inquiry (“Automatic”) is another. It says a lot about the Plate Lunch duo’s place in this world.

“Gregg and Cory have the best vibes and you can just tell they’re genuine guys,” Yoshifuku said. “Ever since meeting them early this year I wanted to work with them any time possible.”


Curated by Plate Lunch

» Where: Clips Hawaii, 822 Kaheka Street

» When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

» Cost: Free admission, artwork ranges from $50-$1,000,000

» Info: (808) 941-6777,

This must have been the impression they have left on others as well for such an immediate response and this wonderful group art show coming up Saturday at Clips.

Clips is a surf and skate shop opened in April by Aloha Rag Vice President Makoto Kambara after the high-end urbanite boutique quietly closed its doors on Kapiolani Blvd. His new surf boutique specializes in premium surfboard brands like Channel Islands, Firewire and JS Industries. For apparel they carry brands that include Aloha Sunday, Plate Lunch and Salvage Public.

Saturday’s art show will feature the work of six artists from Japan, Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii, including skateboard pro Mark “The Gonz” Gonzales, one of the most influential skaters of all time. If you have a friend, son, brother, cousin, sister or daughter who is into skateboarding, an original piece of art by The Gonz would be priceless to them.

COURTSEY CLIPS HAWAIIWork by Yusuke Hanai who has worked with Burton and Beams. "Yusuke is the man! Such a nice humble guy, He's been very helpful over the past couple years of traveling to Japan. Very talented illustrator, painter, and graphic artist. Stoked to have him as part of the Plate Lunch Ohana." Gregg Kaplan said


Work by Yusuke Hanai, who has worked with Burton and Beams. "Yusuke is the man! Such a nice humble guy, He's been very helpful over the past couple years of traveling to Japan. Very talented illustrator, painter, and graphic artist. Stoked to have him as part of the Plate Lunch Ohana," said Gregg Kaplan.

“I met Mark on a recent skate trip,” Gregg Kaplan said. “I’m stoked on everything that he’s done for skateboarding and art, he’s a big inspiration.”

Born and raised on Maui, they both went to school at King Kekaulike. They have been surfing and skating since day one.

“Surf, skate, create,” Kaplan said. “We've always been encouraged to be creative and have always made art, but I didn't really start making art until around 2004. Willie Nelson has one of my first real pieces that I painted of our mutual friend Roger.”

Gregg has done some very memorable projects with Vans including a signature Vans + Gregg Kaplan shoe collection, the 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing poster and last year’s Vans World Cup of Surfing design.

“That was the first project of that size and scope.” he said. “It was an amazing experience to work with a good crew and make rad stuff.”

I haven't met the Kaplan brothers in person, but their reputation precedes them as some of the most globally connected yet still grounded and humble artists in the world of surf and skate. Their website has some incredible projects and designs showcasing their roots and displaying their massive gratitude and passion for life. Their "Ohana" is an impressive collective of artist/athletes.

I have a feeling this is the kind of show you would want to go to just to meet the Kaplan brothers and soak up some of their positive energy. Buying some amazing art would be an added bonus!


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Bringing Kakaako to Chinatown

February 26th, 2014

As my post-event depression after POW! WOW! Hawaii continues, I’m happy to see there is no shortage of artistic events happening in Honolulu.

Creative renaissance space Lana Lane Studios, a Kakaako warehouse that houses some of our city’s brightest in film, photography, art, design and music, will present a showcase of their many talents this week at the ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave., that will run through March 29. An opening reception is planned from 7 to 9:30 p.m. March 13; the exhibition will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lana Lane Studios will showcase its residents through March at The Arts at Mark's (Image by Greg Aguinas)

Lana Lane Studios will showcase its resident artists at the ARTS at Marks Garage. (Courtesy Greg Aguinas)

Watching this warehouse come to life over the last year and a half has been awe-inspiring, to say the least. It is a 5,000-square-foot living and breathing example of what can be accomplished when you combine dreams with a solid work ethic — and hard labor.

Lana Lane co-founder and manager Jeffrey Gress exemplifies this to a T. A former Navy man who spends his summers on Alaskan fishing boats and has a knack for construction, he has literally built much of space with his bare hands to include a music studio, outdoor stage and other improvements. He has screen printing equipment and will soon have a photo lab. Oh, and he’s also an amazing graphics designer, illustrator, painter, calligraphist and muralist.

The shared warehouse is home to many notables in the art community, including artists Ekundayo and Matt and Roxy Ortiz. It’s also home to filmmaking trio The Rising Sons, Banzai Media, musicians Nick Kaleikini and Anton Glamb, and Miso & Ale food mastermind Gavin Murai.

The space has hosted many creative community events, including “Sip & Sketch,” a 48-hour film competition, a few album launch parties, and the Pow Wow Hawaii School of Music, of course!

The exhibition at the ARTS at Marks Garage will showcase work by 19 of Lana Lane’s 24 resident artists; an opening reception will feature music by residents Nick Kaleikini and Anton Glamb with the “Ambassador of Aloha,” Danny Kaleikini, and futuristic hip-hop producer Rooks Royal.

Mardi Gras revelers in Chinatown during last year's block party. (Star-Advertiser File)

Mardi Gras revelers in Chinatown during last year's block party. (Star-Advertiser File)

TUESDAY IS the big Mardi Gras block party in Chinatown, which will breathe life into the neighborhood on a Tuesday night for the 14th year in a row. The free event will feature food vendors, Samba parades, six floats, face and body painting, and of course, BEADS!

Three outdoor stages will all feature live Samba music – some of the most fun music to wiggle to – and an afterparty will offer eight different clubs for people to scramble into when the streets open back up to traffic.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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From Hong Kong to Haleiwa

December 18th, 2013

I usually shy away from the country during the VANS Triple Crown of Surfing season - it’s an entirely different world of people, where locals become even more protective and us townies can feel a bit more isolated.

Photographer Zak Noyle watches the first day of Pipe Masters from the balcony of one of the RVCA houses (Image courtesy of Brandon Shigeta)

Zak Noyle watches the first day of the 2013 Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons from the balcony of one of RVCA's houses on the North Shore. (Courtesy Brandon Shigeta)

It's not like there's a negative energy; more like, I feel like I’m intruding. It reminds me of crashing set parties for TV shows or movies. The day-players and friends of friends who found their way inside can never be in the inner circle among those who spend 12-16 hours each day for weeks, or even months, together. They know who you are.

After accepting a very gracious offer to visit the RVCA house and talk with photographer Zak Noyle about a recent trip to Hong Kong for the global action sports photography competition Red Bull Illume, I was both excited and scared. RVCA founder PM Tenore had brought tons of his advocates with him for a RVCAloha Project, many who I've followed for years (and was trying to keep cool about it).

Nobody likes an overly-excited fangirl on the North Shore.

The day I drove up was a beautiful one — incredibly clear skies and huge waves. It was the first day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, so there were many people on the back porch of a house overlooking the contest. Skateboarders Kevin Spanky Long and Josh Harmony, artists Estavan Oriol and Barry McGee, musicians ASAP Mob, YG and tons of others were milling about, watching fellow RVCA advocates Makua Rothman and Danny Fuller in the water, among others.

The waves were so huge you could feel them breaking. As someone who doesn’t get out to watch sports too often, I tried to be cool with each “WOAH!” that would escape my mouth whenever someone would shoot out of the lip of a heavy wave.

Noyle winning the Sequence Category at the Red Bull Illume Award Ceremony at the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong, China on August 29th, 2013   (Courtesy of Brian Ching See Wing)

Noyle with his Red Bull Illume award during a ceremony in Hong Kong on Aug. 29. (Courtesy Brian Ching See Wing)

Zak was the best, immediately making me feel welcome and taking our group up to the second floor so we could watch from the balcony and talk about his trip to Hong Kong.

As one of four staff photographers in the world for Surfing Magazine, Noyle is the kind of globe-trotting creative people can easily look up to. He is patient, humble and shows great appreciation for all forms of art. Having traveled to Japan, Puerto Rico, Tahiti, Easter Island, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, California and Orgeon, he shows no signs of complacency, telling me Hong Kong was a very memorable visit.

“It was so sick,” he said.

His sequence photo of surfer Gabriel Medina was selected from more than 30,000 applicants among the top 250 images, which earned him an invitation to see if he made the top 50. Winning his category was a breeze, he said, but he also had the opportunity to meet and mingle with hundreds of other action sports photographers at the event.

“I liked a lot of the skate and the snow photography." said Noyle. "Mainly because it was so different from what I do in the water. I liked seeing how they use light and different elements to capture their subject.”

Each of the top 50 images were on display in illuminated cubes in Hong Kong, but have since been packed up and shipped to the United States for a nighttime exhibition that will travel from Phoenix to Atlanta.

All of the mind-blowing images can be seen online; a special collector's edition book with all of the top 250 images is also available for purchase.

Zak Noyle's winning photo. (Courtesy Red Bull)

Zak Noyle's winning photo. (Courtesy Red Bull)

ALSO THIS weekend: It's my birthday!

I love this time of year so much and have found bringing everyone together to have a party, as a party person, is the best birthday present to give myself.

There’s so much happening with the POW! WOW! Hawaii music program, I wanted to produce a showcase for that and raise money to support programming for the big February event that's coming up super-fast.

"BANG! BANG!" will feature performances by students in the POW! WOW! School of Music from 9 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St. They'll be followed by the announcement of 2014's featured Hawaii music artists, who will then take over for the most ultimate dance party celebration yet. One of my favorite visual artists, Ekundayo, will also be painting live and Visual Cortex will display projection art all night.

Cover is $10 for everyone 18-and-over; click here to buy tickets online. I hope you can come!


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

Posted in Art, Music, SA | No Comments »

POW! WOW! hits the road

August 21st, 2013

“Thank you for choosing to spend your Friday listening to us. You could have been anywhere tonight, but you are here.”

The lineup at PechaKucha Honolulu Nights (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The lineup at “PechaKucha Honolulu Nights.” (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

That's what artist Richard Rayla told us at the 18th “PechaKucha” last week at the Honolulu Museum of Art. He had just presented his 20 slides in 20 seconds, sharing artwork that stretched from contemporary true abstract paintings to tongue-in-cheek ink drawings of large freighters in miniature.

The entire program was intriguing, to say the least, not only because it caters to my frustratingly short attention span but because there was so much to learn in such a short amount of time. From art to architecture to fashion to food security, I wasn’t bored, even for a minute. The event is timed so well, with a nice reception before and intermission during, plus drinks and food. There wasn’t anywhere else I wanted to be that evening.

I had gone to support Jasper Wong, Lead Director for POW! WOW! Hawaii, a colleague I haven’t been able to see much of lately since I’ve been working so much and he’s been traveling so much. While he is currently in Berlin for the Warsteiner Beer Art Collection unveiling, I will be representing our organization in Portland, Ore., for our first satellite event, “Forest for the Trees.”

While we have been able to significantly grow POW! WOW! Hawaii in terms of scale and reach over the last three years, it’s very humbling to see an individual taking the initiative to pull it together in another city. “Forest for the Trees” organizer Gage Hamilton is a well-connected Portland artist who partnered with Hellion Gallery owner Matt Wagner to bring the mural project together under the guidance of Wong and Kamea Hadar.

PechaKucha night at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (Courtesy of Christa Wittmier)

“PechaKucha” at the Honolulu Museum of Art. (Courtesy of Christa Wittmier)

This event will be reminiscent of the first POW! WOW! in Hong Kong, where a gallery is involved, but also keeping with the spirit of the event engaging the broader community in the process and creation of art.

There are nine mural locations throughout Portland and 17 artists working and living with local artists to share and celebrate their cultures. With six of the visiting artists POW! WOW! Hawaii veterans, including Hadar, there will be a fantastic union of experiences and the family will grow significantly. I’m so excited.

I remember bumping in to Aaron “Woes” Martin at last week’s “Iron DJ Challenge” at The Republik, where he told me there are more mural projects around the globe than ever before. Being involved from the beginning, I have heard so much feedback from so many different angles, but the one that I hear most is there is no other event like POW! WOW! Hawaii. What sets it apart is not only the focus on the process, but the feeling that it is one big family. The artists are not staying in Waikiki hotels; they stay together in one house, encouraging more dialogue and inspiration — which is reflected in the resulting artwork.

Murals in progress in Portland: Madsteez (LA), Gage Hamilton (PDX) and Zach Yarrington (PDX) (Courtesy Matt Wagner)

A mural in progress in Portland, Ore., by artists Madsteez (LA), Gage Hamilton (PDX) and Zach Yarrington (PDX). (Courtesy Matt Wagner)

Portland will be similar with local artists hosting the international artists. They have already begun painting and plan to end the week with a party at the White Owl Social Club.

It’s never easy for me to leave Hawaii. I’m usually homesick after a day or two. But this trip will be good for me. I’m excited to get back to the Pacific Northwest and even more excited to be doing it in support of a beautiful project like this.

Follow “Forest For The Trees” on Instagram or visit Hellion Gallery's website for updates and photos.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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