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Where art and artists grow together


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POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

“;Long live creativity,”; Trisha Lagaso Goldberg recited to explain the philosophy behind thirtyninehotel, the mixed-use space on the second floor of a well-worn building at 39 N. Hotel St., in the heart of Chinatown.

The lively bar/lounge/art gallery/event center has become one of the bright spots in the district's revitalization effort, drawing varied crowds with its showcase of contemporary and cutting-edge artists of various disciplines.

“;We want to present a unified artistic experience of music, performance, art and fashion,”; said Goldberg, the venue's curator. “;We have a vision that everything can flow together.

“;It's really important to note who's running the place: three San Francisco Art Institute graduates, one world-famous deejay and a mom,”; she added with a laugh.

Goldberg is one of the art institute grads; Harvey Bassett, the venue's co-owner and music director, built an international reputation out of his hometown of London as “;DJ Harvey.”; They're joined by co-owners Gelareh Khoie and Richard Hadad-Ralyah, events manager Mark Chittom and bar manager Christian Self.

Goldberg said the venue's keepers want patrons to “;feel like they're nowhere else on earth”;—“;we're leaving the age of technology and entering the age of experience”;—but they're striving for more than just ambience.

“;We want to promote creativity and hopefully inspire our audience. We want to make an impact with art.”;

Among thirtyninehotel's endeavors is its Chambers Artist Residency Program, which invites artists from outside Hawaii to create unique installations. Last June, inaugural CARP artists Megan Wilson and Carolyn Casatno created a psychedelic floral exhibit that was popular with patrons.

CARP's current artist is Aaron Noble, a California-based street muralist whose work is now shown worldwide. Noble paints energetic, abstract pieces from cutouts of superhero comic books. His mural will show through April 25.

“;I can't stress enough the significance of Aaron's experience as a street artist,”; Goldberg said in discussing Noble's stature. “;At a certain point in his maturity (as an artist), he'll be beyond our reach. We couldn't afford an artist like this.”;

A key part of CARP is its educational facet, which allows students to work alongside artists to install their exhibits. The internship covers the process from beginning to end, and it's an impressive addition to a student resume, Goldberg said.

“;This is the best way to learn,”; said Noble, who worked with six student assistants last month. “;It's gone well.”;

Gaye Chan, a University of Hawaii-Manoa art professor, says CARP has provided six UH undergraduate and graduate students the rare opportunity to make contact with professional working artists.

“;Hawaii's art scene is small compared to other places, and Hawaii's economy doesn't support a lot of artists to be able to continue to practice their art,”; she said. “;This is one way for students to see what it's like.”;

Chan said student reactions to the experience have been varied. “;Students that enter any field of study have fantasies of what it's like to be an artist or firefighter or astronaut. The best thing about this is that they can find out firsthand what it's really like. Some have enjoyed (the experience); others found out it isn't really what they thought it was.”;

Goldberg said the mission of CARP, and of thirtyninehotel itself, is fundamentally “;all about community access.”;

“;We bring in artists who are contemporary, cutting edge, and there's not even a fee to see them! And you can't see them anywhere else in Hawaii.”;

In fact, many are so cutting edge that few outside the street art scene would understand their significance. But that doesn't matter, said Goldberg.

“;We're not trying to speak to only one group. We offer our audiences everything they need to learn more. We have information sheets about the artists, and even the staff is educated. It's totally about accessibility and public art provides that element.”;

Noble understands the venue's aspirations and believes they can achieve their aims.

“;Thirtyninehotel is special for a nightclub,”; he said. “;I feel it has a really catalytic presence in the community. It seems to be a place where things can happen.”;