Great art does not just happen. It has to be nurtured to become a rich conversation about this place and time—that’s how it becomes valuable to generations hence. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa continues a series of reports on how people and businesses investing in local art are building the way our time will be remembered.
“I know that all the developers are including local artists. Absolutely. That’s had a huge impact I think.”
Maile Meyer, founder of Na Mea Hawai‘i should know. She’s been key to developing capacity for art’s current semi boom. (No one wants to jinx it with over hype. ) Yes, buying local art is great wherever you can get it, but one local company, Dawson Technical, is going further with a two prong approach. First, they’re building a collection.
Meyer: “It’s fascinating what people think is an acceptable way to support our communities, by buying things as cheaply as you can. You should spend as much money as you can so you support the not for profit and the artist. There are two components to the Dawson Art Project. One is a collection of Native Hawaiian art. Chris Dawson and his family are building a large collection.”
Meyer: “They’re doing something they’re tasking others to do. That’s how you support Native Hawaiian art, you buy it. Not at auctions for the lowest price you can get, those are already gifted by the artists. So people have it backwards.”
With Meyer’s help, Dawson has a work space energized with local character. In addition, they’ve hosted three exhibitions so far, and for each, Dawson funded materials and committed to purchases, Meyer found studio space, works progressed, Dawson funded framing and photography, portfolios were fattened and artworks made their way into the world.
Meyer: “Most of them (artists) are working other jobs. They’re doing this whenever they can. Community artists they’re working in their bathrooms, in their friends’ garages, Dawson Art Project helped get a lot of those kinds of artists on pathways. “
Meyer: “The moral of the story is, Dawson having art shown in a space meant an artist had to prepare 4-6 months beforehand, so they had to dedicate themselves to painting. Right there it’s a gift that you’ve been able to have that focused time.”
Independent curator, artist, Trisha Lagaso Goldberg says art can make marketing more effective. “For the developers? I think they stand a lot to gain. I think they were spending that money on marketing to begin with. I’ve worked with many businesses in Honolulu, we’re talking about mom and pop businesses, right? Small local businesses that have found it in their budget to take a part of their marketing budget, say, and using those funds to support creative endeavors. The Mori shop under Art and Flea’s umbrella does a fantastic job of doing just that. They integrate creative makers and artists into the very fabric of who they are and it helps to spread their story.”
Lagaso Goldberg says artists today aren’t worried about “selling out.”
Lagaso Goldberg: “They’re already looking at a very different and more porous and flexible model of dealing with commerce, dealing with consumerism.”
Lagaso Goldberg: “How do they get these gigs? From being out there! Social media plays a huge role today. Social media space is an exhibition site. Period. You present your work. You can frame your work and present it to the world, Snapchat and Instagram especially.”
Snapchat and Instagram mainly at present. But really, is it a living? Matthew James has a huge piece at the Salt complex in Kaka‘ako.
“It was basically a year long process trying to convince them to do something that didn’t exactly fit the mold of the idea they originally had when they were planning putting art around the Salt development. To convince them to put what essentially ended up being a 2500 pound painting behemoth and hang it on their wall was sort of a long process, but I think it came out successful. And hopefully it will show other artists in Hawai‘i that it’s a big open world out there, and try and always push for getting your vision out as clearly as you can.”
Next, we’ll find out more about how local guy, Matthew James is doing, in between ambulances, there in Brooklyn.
Yes, buying art at all is a big enough hurdle. Now, however, there is at least one company led by one art dealer who has developed a way to support the process of art making. In all great civilizations whose art we admire, materials, space, and sustenance were needed to create those things. How shall we support Hawai‘i’s record of life today?