GalleryHNL to Celebrate, Support UH Artists

Gallery HNL

A new Honolulu gallery and art agency hopes to feature artists coming out of the University of Hawaii’s Department of Art & History, and elevate them to levels usually reserved for professional artists. And key to the approach of GalleryHNL will be to ensure that the creators are paid for their work.

“I didn’t want to see artists, who should be professional artists, carrying bags at the Moana Surfrider,” says Mark Blackburn, who along with wife Carolyn run Manu Antiques (formerly Mauna Kea Galleries). Blackburn is partnering with prominent local architect Sanford Hasegawa of Studio Becker to back GalleryHNL, along with Gaye Chan, director of the UHM Art Department.

“I am thrilled to be connected with these guys,” Chan recently told the Huffington Post. “They have basically taken this on as a philanthropic project. They are such strong advocates for my department and so incredibly influential.”

Blackburn had recently visited the art department, and while he was “blown away” by the quality of the work he saw on campus, he also realized that campus art exhibitions struggled to find an audience. Now he wants Hawaii to know that art exists outside of Chinatown, and happens more than once a month.

“First Friday is a laughable event, nothing but a drinking spree,” Blackburn told Civil Beat yesterday. “But the thing is, it shouldn’t be that way.”

“The local population is not really embraced by the arts, and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but this is my chance to do something about it,” he adds. “I’m actually putting my money where my mouth is on this one.”

There has been some hand-wringing over Honolulu’s arts scene lately, with James Cave’s “Culture Cave” column in Civil Beat asserting that local arts media coverage is “too nice,” interviewing Hawaii artists who have left the islands, and then artists from elsewhere moving here.

“The Honolulu arts scene at large might be a drag right now, but many artists aren’t,” Cave writes.

Blackburn seems to agree, and is working with Chan to both celebrate and financially support artists coming out of Manoa.

“Through an innovative array of formats, GalleryHNL introduces the world to the work of selected artists affiliated with the department and provides them with representation,” explains the official website. “A portion of the sales and commissions is returned to the department to support its many activities and programs.”

According to Civil Beat, 50 percent of sales will go to the artist, 40 percent will go to backers Blackburn and Hasegawa, and 10 percent will go toward a scholarship fund at the art department and other expenses.

Gallery HNL

The first artists to be featured at GalleryHNL are:

  • Mary Babcock, an Associate Professor at the UHM Department of Art & Art History. “Hydrophilia” is a collection of “salvaged net” art, large tapestries created from discarded fishing nets, ropes and line.
  • Theresa Heinrich, an undergraduate student completing her BFA this Spring at UHM. Her work focuses on ceramic sculptures using “maximalism,” layering elements from popular culture, kitsch, religious and mythological iconography.
  • Jonathan Swanz, a lecturer in glass and ceramics at UH Manoa who received his MFA in 2013. “Tropical Abstract” uses traditional Italian, Swedish, and Dutch glass techniques to create art inspired by Hawaii’s ocean, flora, and fauna.
  • Tom Walker, an MFA student at UHM who received his BFA from the University Of Alaska Fairbanks. “Sequence” is a series of acrylic paintings utilizing “chromostereopsis,” an optical effect that gives the illusion of depth on a flat surface.

Gallery HNL

GalleryHNL’s opening reception is being held May 2 at its first space at Nā Lama Kukui, formerly known as the Gentry Pacific Design Center (560 N. Nimitz Hwy.). To learn more, check out the GalleryHNL website, or connect with the gallery on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

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