Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 30, 2001

Mark's Garage churns with creativity. Helen Iaea
works on her watercolors.

Dream factory

The Arts at Mark's Garage

By Scott Vogel
Honolulu Star-Bulletin

EVERY AMERICAN CITY seems to pay lip service to the idea of a cultural arts district. The quite noble goal, in most cases, is the revitalization of some faded downtown quarter, as if art alone might effect a reversal of fortune. Over time, however, the idea of improvement tends to fade right along with the district, good intentions notwithstanding.

If Honolulu becomes an exception to the rule, it may well be because of projects like The Arts at Mark's Garage, a new space that was recently -- and quietly -- opened to the public.

It's not easy for a 4,200-square-foot structure to do anything quietly; not surprisingly, public interest in the space -- its official opening isn't scheduled until July -- is already high. As befits an institution that is the product of both public and private donations, the Garage's mission is similarly duplicitous. On the one hand, it will be a performance venue, showcasing everything from theatrical presentations to gallery exhibits to concerts. On the other, it will provide office space and a permanent home for at least 12 arts organizations and arts-related businesses.

Skip Lawrence conducts a watercolor class.

"None of us could do this alone," said Kimberly Coffee-Isaak, the executive director of Hawaii Craftsmen, which was selected to be the on-site manager of the Garage. "This alliance allows us to do it, and do it with panache."

And optimism among members of the alliance is running high.

Tim Bostock, who has already produced a hit comedy there ("The Exhibitionists"), said that the Garage soon will be an invaluable addition to the Honolulu fringe theater scene.

"There hasn't been a space that has been generally available for the more experimental work, either for bringing in a ready-made piece or making work for the space, which three groups will do in the next few months," he said. "There are so few venues."

Bostock's next production, entitled "Ola's Son," promises to be as edgy as his first, a play based on the 1998 police shooting at Palolo Valley Housing.

Colin Michael Carmichael, Dale Coleman and John
Hough do their thing as part of improvisational
group, the Exhibitionists, right.

For Lizard Loft, another specialist in experimental art (they sponsor everything from poetry slams to graffiti art), the Garage means an end to its days as an artistic nomad relying on the kindness of local coffee houses.

"We had a space at Java Java Cafe on Kapahulu, but it closed down and we went into hiatus," said Tasi Manicas, a Lizard Loft board member. "After the cafe closed, we did some performances in various different venues, but now we have a permanent home."

Skip Lawrence, a water color instructor at Mark's
Garage chats with Napuana Schneider as she paints.

Chris Patrinos ran his business, Kekoa Stage Management, out of his house before hearing that the Garage was leasing space. He jumped at the opportunity. Because of his expertise, Patrinos realizes that he'll likely be called upon to lend a pro bono hand to fellow Garage tenants. But after years spent managing large-scale projects at the Hawaii Theatre, he claims to welcome the logistical challenges faced by companies with limited resources.

"My dream is to see these nonprofit organizations take off," he said. "I really like to see what people's dreams are and make them a reality."

The sign draws passersby Misa Tupou, left, and
Gary Nakamura who stop to check out the art classes.

A place for dreams. A venue for work both challenging and delightful. A home. It's still largely empty now, but soon the Garage will be filled to capacity with artistic aspirations both large and small. On a recent afternoon, members of the Hawaii Watercolor Society (another partner) put their dreams on canvas, even as the Ridiculusmus Theater Company rehearsed its dreams just a few feet away. The coexistence was apparently peaceful.

Having an entire artists' colony under one roof might ultimately get crowded. But if so, here's an idea: How about colonizing a few more buildings in the neighborhood? There are lots of places nearby that could stand a makeover like the one on Nuuanu and Pauahi.

Mark's Garage

What: The Arts at Mark's Garage
Place: 1159 Nuuanu Ave., at Pauahi
Initial core partners: Hawaii Craftsmen, Hawaii Academy of Performing Artists, Hawaii Watercolor Society, just an idea!, Kekoa Stage Management, Lizard Loft, Pacific Handcrafters Guild, PHG Foundations, Tau Dance Theatre, Tim Bostock Productions and Twilight Productions
Call: 596-8128

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