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Mixed-Use Arts Space Proposed for Wailuku

Creative minds discuss early plans for new collaborative arts space on Main Street.

July 7, 2011
Trisha Smith

Arts enthusiasts and professionals across the Aloha State dream of the day when more of its beloved towns will join the ranks of respected regions such as these. With its unique art galleries, crafts outlets, First Friday events, and landmarks such as the Historic ‘Ïao Theater, the blossoming Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) and Requests Music, the island’s only record store, Wailuku continues to attract a flock of creative spirits and arts lovers. Yet, as the “price of paradise” continues to surge and several governmental entities turn their backs on the arts, many artists have struggled to excel and continue such reformations.

Regardless of what recent years’ drab budget plans have sanctioned or what the education system deems as crucial curriculum for its keiki, a fervent dedication to the arts and music communities in Hawai‘i is alive and well. Talented residents in paradise hold fast to such areas as Honolulu’s Chinatown, where over the last decade, a variety of state, county and grassroots organizations have continually collaborated to create and nurture a thriving arts community island residents and visitors alike can celebrate, including such events as First Friday Honolulu and The ARTS at Marks Garage creative space.

One key community project of the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance (HAA) is The ARTS at Marks Garage, a collaborative gallery, performance and office space for businesses and nonprofits that aims to transform downtown Honolulu with the power of the arts. Located in Chinatown and the Honolulu Arts and Cultural District, The ARTS at Marks Garage was founded in 2001 as a result of a city and county resolution that provided “seed funds to establish an incubator arts enterprise program,” according to HAA’s Website. As a member of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, HAA was able to help fund the space, along with assistance from some foundations and personal donors, and The ARTS at Marks Garage recently spun-off as its own nonprofit.

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There is a spectrum of gifted and eclectic creative spirits that enhance Maui’s arts verve, with many celebrating the location and character of such areas as historic Wailuku Town. A clever collection of artists, business professionals and community leaders recently met to brainstorm the possibility of transforming this bleak space at 1980 Main Street into a multi-use arts and performance space similar to the popular The ARTS at Marks Garage in Honolulu.

The locale serves as an arts incubator, working with partner occupants, and has provided previously unavailable opportunities for emerging artists to further their careers and meet new artistic challenges, according to

Maui’s Rick Woodford, a longtime restaurateur, nonprofit activist and real estate agent—among other passions—is helping to jumpstart an initiative to transform a vacant commercial space in the heart of Wailuku Town, using places such as The ARTS at Mark’s Garage as the leading model.

Located at 1980 Main St., the vacant space is owned by Jonathan Starr, a prominent community advocate and local businessman who has spent decades contributing his knowledge and expertise to numerous causes. As a talented musician, he also performs in a variety of bands and county celebrations. He’s known for his efforts to revitalize Wailuku, and his commercial space on one of the island’s busiest intersections has been sought after for several years by a variety of investors and special- interest professionals, and has been used as a venue for a number of county campaigns and political events.

The over 2,000-square-foot space could provide gallery, stage and studio artists the ability to present rotating art exhibitions, entertainment and offer rehearsal—and economic—opportunities to aspiring performers.

Starr is offering the property at an “exceptionally reasonable price,” according to its property manager Woodford, and is willing to explore a variety of interested groups and collaborations. Yet reiterated that it is most important to secure funds from the HAA, philanthropists and various fundraising efforts to make it happen before creative plans for the space can take form.

“We want this to create an incubator for the arts, and I’m very excited to be a part of these efforts,” said Woodford.

This collaborative effort to actually transform the space into a thriving arts performance and rehearsal space is still in its preliminary stages. Attendees from last week’s meeting have just begun laying the groundwork and sorting out details to decide if this idea could come to life and ignite Wailuku arts district even more.

Woodford invited a group of respected community arts professionals to a think tank meeting of sorts, which included David Johnston of MAPA, Steven Dascoulias of Maui OnStage, visual and performance artist Pat Masumoto, Jason Schwartz of Dream Makers Foundation, Kelly McHugh of the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center and representatives from Mana‘o Radio.

“Places like Marks Garage work in an arts community,” said Masumoto. “It’s one of those places where everyone wants to know what’s going on there and who these artists are.”

Read more about the creative brainstorming ideas the group offered at last Wednesday’s meeting in the next issue of the Maui Weekly.



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