Grand opening of downtown art center showcases over 30 local artists

The city has plans for the first and second floors of Chinatown Gateway Plaza, according to Makanani Sala, Honolulu’s director of culture and the arts. She said the idea was to create a hub for theater, the arts, events and collaborations, and that’s good news for businesses in the region of all kinds.

Sandy Pohl got involved in the gallery business through her late husband, educator, artist Louis Pohl. She has run the Louis Pohl Gallery in four locations in Chinatown since the 1980s. Pohl has a master’s degree in social work and another in public health.

“So I understand what makes people change, one by one, and I also take a little bigger picture, to make changes in a whole community,” she told Hawai’i Public Radio. .

Pohl said she applies both disciplines to running her galleries and is now executive director of the Downtown Art Center.

She said that in 2002, with street prostitution, Chinatown was actually in a worse state than it is now. It was then that art and commerce sparked the last boom.

“It was his time. People needed to go out and socialize with each other. So bars took him over, they funded him,” she said. “We had 25 bars in the neighborhood, they each paid $ 150 a month so we could afford entertainment, police security and barricades to block the streets. It was a working community because we all wanted it to be. it thrives together. That’s what it took. “

Pohl sees Saturday launch of the DAC as the start of another renaissance in downtown Chinatown.

Eight different arts organizations, from Hawai’i Craftsmen to Handweavers’ Hui, provided early support, sponsoring shows and workshops at DAC. Rooms are available for hire for meetings, screenings, pop-ups and exhibitions. The exhibition space is reserved until 2022.

Teri Skillman is Executive Director of the Hawai’i Arts Alliance, also a CAD partner. They run the popular Art Bento programs in dozens of public schools each year. She says the DAC has six schools within a mile, all on bus lines.

“We hope the Downtown Art Center will help kids not only after school, but also on weekends, as well as the community,” Skillman said.

Skillman said summer art and dance classes have already brought the Chinatown Gateway building and courtyard to life.

Communities across the country, including Hawai’i, are feeling the aftermath as pandemic fears subside, according to Kumi Macdonald, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Hawai’i or NAMI, Hawai’i.

She said a NAMI poll in February 2021 showed that nearly 40% of adults in Hawai’i reported symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“More than half of Americans across the country have reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. That’s more than half. So normally we say that one in five people is struggling with mental health issues, but now we’re saying 50%, ”Macdonald said.

In addition to physical activity and meditation, Macdonald said the beneficial effects of creative activity have been documented.

“Medical insurance won’t pay for it if it doesn’t work properly?” “

Art therapy through licensed practitioners is covered by insurance, Macdonald said. And Skillman argues that participating in programs like Filipino dance and culture at CAD is a form of social investment.

“I hope that our presence there will be good for the community and that we will help build the community,” Skillman said.

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This Saturday, Chinatown businesses and arts groups hope to hear more details from the city and county of Honolulu on its plans for Chinatown.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi is scheduled to speak at the opening of the Downtown Art Center on Saturday. The public is invited from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

More than 30 key Hawaiian artists will be on display in the DAC’s best-selling exhibition to date. There is also a lot more to see elsewhere on Nu’uanu Avenue.

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