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Hawaii Theatre anchors our most innovative neighborhood.

The Arts

If there’s another city that’s undergone more of an artistic renaissance over the past generation, we’d like to know which one. While scores of talented and accomplished artists and musicians have always lived and worked in Honolulu, the community’s interest in and embrace of the arts has soared in recent years.


Best example of public art

Cook for you, cook for me

Local sculptor Mat Kubo, exhausted of the solitude of social and digital mediation, cooked up a project in which he prepared and shared a traditional Japanese dish with strangers. Cook For You, Cook For Me clearly touched many of those who shared nabe with with Kubo, and quite a few more at that. We serve this dish up bittersweet: Kubo leaves the Islands for Texas later this week. Aloha, Mat.

You said: “Not sure. Even things I like become invisible to me over time.”

Best museum

Bishop Museum

At once a celebration, of science, Polynesia, the arts, history and the sky, the princess’ “other” legacy informs and invigorates keiki o ka ‘aina from the cradle to the grave. If you haven’t visited Bishop Museum, you can’t really claim this place.

1525 Bernice St., 9am–5pm daily except Tues (closed), $15.95 adult admission with senior, youth, student and military discounts available, [www.bishopmuseum.org], 847-3511

Best local musician deserving of a wider audience

Jason Tom

Not a lot of opportunities for a human beat box to make his mark in Honolulu, so you’ll have to catch Jason Tom and his freaky noise machine at talent shows, community events like Chinese New Year and at surprise appearances here and there. Until he gains a wider audience or splits for the mainland, check Tom out in YouTube. Pretty sick.

Best literary chronicler of Honolulu

Lee Cataluna

Honolulu is not an easy place to tell it straight. From cultural biases against naming names and “standing out” to the sheer smallness of the island, frank talk about our dirty laundry is fraught with discomfort. Lee Cataluna doesn’t seem to sweat it. As a playwright and as a newspaper columnist, Cataluna has a knack for keeping us on our toes, both by saying the outrageous (and outrageously funny) and by saying what everyone seems to be thinking, but won’t utter out loud.

You said: “Is there literary chronicling of Honolulu going on? Lemme know.”

Best t-h-e-a-t-r-e theater

Kumu Kahua

God knows every theatre company in every town is perpetually in search of that Barton Fink feeling, but outside of New York, how many ever find it? This one has. Kumu Kahua is theater you can believe in, with actors that look like Hawaii and voices true to home. Few sights stirred our hearts over the last year as much as seeing Kumu Kahua’s Merchant Street theater packed to the walls on the final weekend of What Ever Happened to John Boy Kihano? If a theater company is filling the seats with young people, and in the middle of a terrible recession, well…they’re doing a lot of things right.

46 Merchant St., [www.kumukahua.org], [email: KumuKahuaTheatre], 536-4441

Best example of how not to do public art

Graffiti

Attention taggers: you’re blowing it for the artists out there. Yeah, we said it: if throwing your scrawl up on the bus stop is art, it’s the art of litter. And it’s boring. Even though they may not agree themselves, we’re saying this in defense of the excellent muralists and public artists whose work gets lost in–and often defaced by–your noise: Can it. Honolulu is not feeling you at all.

Best place to get inked

808 Tattoo

Just don’t get the Hawaiian Islands across your back. Please.

46-018 Kamehameha Highway, Suite #211, 234-1501

You said: “MidWeek.”

Best designer

Anne Namba

She’s costumed everyone from Hillary Clinton to the IONA dancers: while many up-and-coming Honolulu designers (Fighting Eel, Allison Izu, Muumuu Heaven) made their presence felt in this year’s voting, Manoa’s Anne Namba is still queen of the cloth.

Best free entertainment

Sunset on the Beach

Perhaps the one environment in which local folks, kamaaina, malihini residents and tourists all come out and socialize together. The Waikiki event has been such a success that copycat events are now held all over the island, from City-sponsored spin-offs on the Waianae coast to condo association movie nights out in Hawaii Kai. Early on, some complained about the cost to taxpayers. In retrospect, once Honolulu discovered you can be outside and watching a movie, at the same time? Shoots!

Queen’s Beach, films scheduled for Sun 8/23, Sat 8/29, Sun 8/30 to be determined, screenings start around 7pm, free, access the complete Sunset on the Beach schedule online at [www.waikikiimprovement.com]

Editors’ Pick: Best way to truly galvanize the art scene in Honolulu

Rezone East Chinatown for mixed use

The Chinatown renaissance is well under way. Credit the reigning generation for sticking it out, the younger generation for sticking around, or just blame it on First Fridays: however it happened, we’re lucky to be living in a Honolulu that celebrates the arts much, much more than it did 20 years ago, and a lot of that has to do with this neighborhood. On the flip side, many area galleries and shops are struggling, and not just from the recession. It’s not hard to see why: one Friday night per month is not enough to sustain a commercial district, artistic or otherwise.

The answer, as far as we can tell: get more people living down here. It’s not a new idea–Sergio Goes and others pushed hard to make it happen–but it’s one that’s been stalled too long by parking regulations, landlord intransigence and other obstacles.

If East Chinatown is ever going to blossom into the truly thriving artistic and cultural mecca this city needs, it’s not going to be because of block parties or one-off events. It will happen if and when young artists, students and professionals are shopping, sipping coffee and eating pho down here on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. And they will–if they’re living nearby.