Honolulu’s Creative Scene: The Kids Are Alright

Jul 16, 2019

Summer 2019! Matt Tapia. Take it Easy. Copper lettering now on view at The Shape of the Wave to Come Gallery inside South Shore Market, Ward Village.
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

It’s the height of Summer 2019, and Honolulu is having an art and design moment, with interesting shows scattered around town, and an installation featuring local designers and makers at South Shore Market. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports that public spaces in the Market are now the Shape of the Wave to Come gallery-- featuring a new wave of local creatives.


Jordan Lum. Photograph.
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

The Shape of the Wave to Come continues its inaugural exhibition through July 28th 2019 at South Shore Market in Ward Village. Music in the 3 minute radio story by Ornette Coleman, Scott Ohtoro, and Super Groupers with Punahele.

When I met curator,  photographer, instigator, Mark Kushimi, I asked about the name of his new gallery at South Shore Market, The Shape of the Wave to Come, and he said, Yeah, it’s related to that bombshell of a jazz album with a similar title.

Ornette Coleman’s release, The Shape of Jazz to Come, charted new territory --no piano, no guitar, just Coleman's plastic saxophone, Don Cherry on trumpet, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins dueling it out. Kushimi was definitely claiming a reference point.

Mark Kushimi. In front of his Sunset photograph.
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

“In 1959, that album was a little bit different because it was a lot of abstract, not really popular riffs.   It was more about people using their raw creativity to solo over bars. And I think that’s sort of related to this show.”

Kushimi tapped key creatives around Honolulu for this exhibition, but then, he’s done this before. Yoshimi was Editor in Chief of Contrast magazine, an influential nexus for Honolulu creatives that first published in 2009. Contrast aimed to get Hawai‘i on the map for great design, and link the people who were making it happen. Yoshimi says it was just a bunch of creative friends, surfers and skaters, who didn't see their ideas about design reflected around them.

“There really wasn’t anything here we could connect to, so we made it.”

Contrast captured a new Honolulu esthetic, and published stories about fun local kids, until 2017.  Similarly, the Wave to Come show features photographers, graphic designers, writers, illustrators, who work in our town, making a living and influencing what we see all around us.

Tommy Hite. Dumpsters in paradise.
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

“These are the people they would see in these halls, or the people they see at the market or something, who just have so much creativity in their hearts, and who aren’t really the type to really push themselves. I wanted to give the community around Ward an opportunity to see what’s going on with their peers, the people they see every day.”

Look for paintings by Kalani Largusa, photographs by Kushimi and others, and a copper wall sculpture that says Take it Easy, by Matt Tapia. That piece was originally mounted in the Honolulu Museum of Art's Hawai'i in Design exhibition, 2016, and still looks great. Seventeen artists are represented, and in the largest grouping near the garage entrance, several photographers offer glimpses of island life. 

Chris Rohrer. Waiks. Photograph.
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

"The idea was to take what I did with the magazine and put it on the walls. So really it is like an interactive magazine you can walk through."

“Nowadays, everybody asks me, When is there going to be another one? But I think there is a voice now,  there are other companies, other people making publications. Like Nella Media Group where the Creative Director and Senior Editor are my friends, and they do great work!”

Kushimi went to the Hawai‘i Zine Fest held in June 2019 in Salt in Kaka‘ako. “It was crazy!  There were a lot of people there self-publishing their own things.”

“One of my good friends, Zen, I think he said it best when he said, You know, the kids are alright right now.”

Used to be, you had to torch things, publish a searing manifesto, then stage a painful revolution to make progress against the Establishment.

Maybe not any more!

Maybe not in Hawai‘i?

Note:  I found past issues, not many, of Contrast at Waiwai Collective.