ABOUT THE HONOLULU ART SCENE

An artist's lesson in life

 

FROM DIARY OF RODNEY CHANG, JULY 16, 1986

 

1. A gallery cannot make it on exhibitions alone. It needs some other source of revenue, such as framing service or commercial items.

2. SOHO too Gallery & Loft attracted the biggest openings (200-500 people) for local galleries, however after the opening traffic, flow was nonexistent.

3. Press coverage in Honolulu for shows is inadequate to keep most galleries going; although many more alternative spaces show art (SOHO too, restaurants, banks, etc.), the paper's staff for art has not increased (1 part time) nor has the allocated amount of space in the paper increased.

4. Art doesn't sell here, especially contemporary and avant-garde venues. Very few artists can live off their work, yet 30 million dollars of t-shirts sold in Hawaii last year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5. Free-lance artists here are totally ignored by governmental institutions set up originally to help and promote sturggling artist, yet Hawaii continues to have the third largestr artists ratio to general population (behind New York and California) in the United States.

6. Political ties and behind the scenes favoritism is the name of the game to have any chance of recognition as an artist in Hawaii.

7. Avoidance of controversial shows and "not making waves" figures into which shows are covered by the media.

8. Only a few favored galleries get most of the rationed reviews (the newspaper's OWN gallery, Contemporary Art Center, the Academy of Arts, EAS Gallery and The Art Loft).

9. If smaller galleries have a review it is limited to a few lines and most likely with no picture of any piece in the show (how rational is it to use words to draw patrons to a show without any reproduced image?).

10. No public agency looks for sacrifices and contributions to culture among galleries and artists, artistic shows financed by artists themselves are looked upon the state as self-serving and self-promoting.

11. No centralized organization of artists with political clout to improve the "cultural climate" exists, artists then to be apathetic and laid back.

12. Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to be an artist - cost of living, no local market, cost of materials and art related servies (framers that hve established businesses are wealthy)

13. Censorhip can occur by the press, although a letter was submitted for the editorial page explaining why SOHO too & Loft is closing, the article was not published.

14. It was known by the informed that SOHO too existed for all the Have-Nots and grass roots art causes, yet no other gallery directors or person in governmental art agencies ever came by for a year of monthly shows (press releases and invitations religiously sent out) (except ONCE by the Director of the Academy of Arts, a professor of art from the University of Hawaii and the Sate Foundation commitee).

15. With all their yearly big bucks to spend, the State Art Foundation bought only l piece at $150 out of 11 exhibitions for the years, featuring about 40 local artists!

16. Of the lst 11 shows, only 4 were reviewed in the newspapers!

17. SOHO too never was able to gain a support core of artists, even with such regular events as sharing art ideas and works at "Friday Nite at SOHO." Artists tend to be self-centered .

18. Artists tend to always do everything last minute and haphazardly in preparing for their show, the night before and the day of the opening is always so stressful - although access to the gallery space was generally available for a week before openings.

19. It was difficult to have consistent art statements submitted, resumes and portraits for shows from the artists as spelled out in written contracts.

20. Other than some of the children, the lower class neighborhood in which SOHO too was located NEVER attended exhibitions.???? There's a masters thesis right there!

21. Much common frustrations exist among the artists in regards to how opportunity to survive creatively is cut off from them, yet they have no ability to know how to change things for themselves - "let somebody else do it."

22. Much great artistic talent exists in this state, almost all of which is doomed to go NOWHERE.

23. The State Foundation, when personally approached, showed no interest in changing things or maintaining any type of communication with a struggling for-artist gallery, but in fact patted themselves on the back for the great job that they think they are doing.

24. After mounting 8 computer innovative exhibitions in this town, no sales or press review has been realized, Rodney Chang remains the only computer artist in town - and unknown.

25. After SOHO too, Honolulu remains an unchanged landscape, beachscape and flower art mentality, catering to local unsophisticated and tourist taste.

26. No effort by the state art agencies is made to share each island's artistic talents, artists on the outer islands are worse off than those residing on Oahu.

27. Nothing ever comes from the Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts for visual artists, other than an annual juried show opportunity at city hall.

28. No support for local artists is evident in the tourist industry.

29. Large commercial gallery does not deal with local artists but international reputations such as Dali and Chagall (prints).

30. The rich do not shop for art in Kalihi (Hawaii?).

31. During the course of l year of monthly exhibitions and crowded opening receptions, not one person (predominantly white middle class) was mugged, robbed or had their car stolen in our ghetto location. That's a measure of success, I guess....

32. Saturday 5-7 pm turned out to be a great time for people to come out to an art opening into Kalihi; 6:30 pm was peak attendance and people cleared out of the hood by 8 pm.

33. For a gallery to have a commercial chance it also needs to be managed by someone with connections into the local art community and "art market," no architect or interior designer EVER came to a show even when repetitive invitations were sent via old mailing lists to such firms.

34. Architects and designers do buy art by the dozen, say a source at Designeer Emporium. They call in advance to order, for example " a dozen landscapes", to insure that there is enough when they come, making sure they don't have to make an extra trips.

35. Art Loft cannot survive on gallery exhibit sales along but it's a constant "hustle" and wining and dining, says a source.

36. Art Loft II at the Honolulu Club (health and social club for young professionals and social ladder climbers) is a losing place for artists to show at; my show of computer art ("GREAT" according to the Art Loft management) is up for four months and nothing sells, nor is there any promotion by the club to their membership.

37. Discontent with media , the "lifeline" for galleries and artists, came to my attention by University of Hawaii Campus Center Gallery, Annie's Boathouse Restaurant (trying to start an art place in Kaneohe snce there is no gallery in that town), First Unitarian Church Gallery and Helekulai Hotel's Island Gallery directors.