Chairman’s Report 2018

Over the two and a half years I’ve been Board Chair of the East Hawaii Cultural Center, people from the community have occasionally commended me for managing this huge, complex, and overwhelming pursuit. Yet I’m responsible for none of the unique beauty and magic emerging from EHCC during this time.

Here is a short list of the things I definitely do not do:

I don’t run the office, interact with people or field every day community concerns. I’m not very social, and that would drive me nuts. Monique Ortiz does that with incredible patience and poise. She has contended with the outpouring of thousands of happy, sad, angry, demanding, creative, frustrated artists, patrons, homeless, critics, and collaborators who have passed through our doors.

Nor did I have anything to with creating our wonderful educational programs. Kellie Miyazu built the Youth Art Series (YAS) from the ground up. With compassion, resourcefulness and innovation she and a group of instructors and volunteers created and manage regular workshops and summer programs which have benefitted hundreds of children and families in East Hawaii. She does all of EHCC’s graphics, too, and along with Andrew Wessels designed our website.

The extraordinary renovation of our art gallery, repaneled, repainted, and reshaped with floating walls was designed and constructed by Andrzej Kramarz and a group of volunteers. During our first year and a half, as a volunteer, Andrzej curated and installed breathtaking exhibitions which redefined expectations of an art venue on the Big Island. I only arrived for openings. He continues to document all of our exhibitions for our website. 

How could any Hawaii venue represent itself as “cultural” without a critical focus on our host culture? Kanani Daley spearheaded our Native Hawaiian exhibition. A child of these islands, embodying the complexity, character, and conflicts of our endemic displaced people, she pioneered an effort to see our host culture represented by our host culture. She also managed our Piko Press, non-toxic community print studio.

Offering us the credibility of a university partnership, introducing unique art and cultural exhibitions which have come to identify EHCC with the underrepresented voices of our community is Michael Marshall. He has somehow managed to balance his positions as Head of Art and Performing Arts at UH Hilo, with generating and often installing rigorous, thoughtful exhibitions. In his spare time, as Executive Director he oversees all of our financial operations.

You might have noticed how consistently, professionally, and punctually our exhibitions appear. No, not me either. That was all about Shelby Smith who shows up every month and stays until each exhibition is optimized. As a ceramicist you’ll probably credit me with our December 2018, “Libation” celebration of ceramic drinking vessels. Nope, Shelby, too. The Makers Market is Suzanne Wang’s creation.

When our team arrived at EHCC we reshaped the Center shop into its current form as a concept store, SPACE. Sounds a lot like my old gallery, idspace, but SPACE was the vision of Bridget Paulson and the work of Monique, Kellie, Leo, Hilary, Cristine, and many others who renamed the venue and created the stylish, lush art and design space you experience when you visit now.  

One of the most evocative solo exhibitions we’ve had during my tenure was Kaori Ukaji’s enormous scarlet embroidered canvases. Losing her home and studio when Kapoho was overrun by lava, she nevertheless worked with a team to create our first annual Women’s Exhibition, serves thoughtfully as Gallery co-chair, and sits on our Board of Directors.

For two years I tried and failed to bring theater, music and performance back to the Center. Finally, our theater has a new identity, Kahua 'Elua, which translates as second stage. Jackie Pualani Johnson has initiated a program to revitalize performing arts in our community. A preeminent figure in Hawaii performing arts for decades, she has invited the Community Players back to our venue. Thanks to Jackie we are once again becoming the East Hawaii Cultural Council, a group of organizations working synergistically to enrich our community.

I’ve been trying to reinvent HI Art Magazine, the popular art news magazine previously edited by Patti Millington, as a voice for the new Center. However, this was way beyond my expertise. Bella Freedman built the site and did all the work to lay out the first several editions, with hopefully more to come.

I wish I could take credit for the incredible 40 piece Indonesian gamelan (gong orchestra) now at home in our building. I do attend the free classes run by the orchestra’s shepherd, Carol Walker who brought an entire container of bronze gongs and elegantly carved wooden stands when she moved from her home in Indonesia to her new Big Island home, joining our Board.

If I attend performances or openings I’m usually hiding behind pillars and avoiding the myriad tasks involved in hosting events. All the work is overseen by Monique, and done by an ever-growing group of volunteers. Hilary, Leo, Kellie, volunteers from the university, and art supporters from our community, all working to make the place not only functional, but beautiful and welcoming when you visit. 

As Chairman of the Board I will take credit for one achievement: I’ve supported an environment in which all these powerful, thoughtful, inspired people could find each other, and work together. We have systematically avoided concentrating too much power in any one person’s hands (especially my own). We are a diverse community which can only be authentically represented by diversity in the cooperative leadership by those directly invested in outcomes.

Our Big Island community is made up of nearly two hundred thousand individuals who might at any moment identify as women, Hawaiian, Micronesian, LGBTQ, Korean, Japanese, children, photographers, African American, actors, musicians, or teachers. Offering voice and venue to the many ways we might see ourselves allows us to witness how wonderfully different we are, but also to celebrate the many more ways we are richly related.



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