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A shared vision for a traditional Hawaiian cultural center

In mid-September, leaders from Artspace toured the Northern Plains of the Dakotas, where we are exploring two creative placemaking projects, one in Minot, North Dakota, and the other on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. In both cases, the emerging projects are likely to have deep ties to local Native American populations; in particular, we are exploring opportunities to help local Native American artists increase economic opportunities that emerge through the creation of art. In Minot, the proposed project would also help anchor an emerging Hispanic population in a community deeply unsettled by recent floods.

While Honolulu is a world away in many regards, there is a similar spirit at the heart of this project: a recognition that creating sustainable space where the arts can flourish is essential to protecting culturally distinct communities that face a multitude of external threats. Artspace will address this challenge with the PA‘I Foundation, a strong community partner whose mission is to preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian cultural traditions for future generations. Together, we will pursue our project goals:

To create a multi-purpose cultural facility that sustains and nurtures native Hawaiian artists and arts organizations;

To build the creative placemaking field’s national capacity to support the space needs of culturally distinct communities;

To connect Honolulu-based artists and arts organizations with peers and constituents across Hawai‘i; and

To fulfill the affordable housing, transit-oriented development and economic development goals of the City of Honolulu.

In Hawaii, Native Hawaiian dancers, musicians, visual artists, and cultural practitioners shared with us their work, their desire for increased educational and economic opportunities, and their passion for a cultural center that will provide space for these activities. During this process, we have focused on the culturally distinct voice and vision of the Native Hawaiian Community. This focus resulted in a shared vision with the PA‘I Foundation to create a mixed-use project in Honolulu that will serve the broader Hawaiian community by developing a traditional Hawaiian cultural center with classroom space, space for teaching and performing Hula, music, and other traditional practices, as well as affordable artist housing for Hawaiian artists and their families.

Residential units will feature high ceilings, large windows, durable surfaces, large doors, and wide hallways to accommodate a variety of creative activities. Each of the residential units will be larger than a typical affordable unit to allow for ample workspace. A roof deck will provide residents with common space and a generous gardening area. In keeping with transit-oriented developments, the project will have ample bicycle storage and a reserved car-share parking space. The building will include a ground-floor community room available to residents and the surrounding community.

For next steps, we will continue to work closely with PA‘I to engage with artists and arts organizations, elected officials, public agencies, and the philanthropic community to advance the project. Engagement with the arts community, spearheaded by PA‘I, is focused on updating the 2006 needs assessment survey funded by the Ford Foundation. The results of this work will further refine the size and scope of the cultural center. A development proposal for a block in Honolulu, owned by the Hawaiian Community Development Authority (HCDA), has been prepared and submitted to HCDA. We anticipate a near term presentation to HCDA Board of Directors to obtain authorization to execute a site control agreement.

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