Corp. Power

A Dallas-based developer just became Honolulu’s newest patron of the arts.


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Yayoi Kusama’s Footprints of Life exhibit on display at the Ward Village Courtyard featured 15 black-dotted shapes meant to symbolize the energy of life and harmony between art and the environment.

When Howard Hughes corporation rolled into town a few years back, everyone agreed on one thing: big changes were coming to Kaka’ako. Howard Hughes delivered. Ward Village boasts new residential towers, shopping venues, restaurants, a new street, and an outdoor ice skating rink during the holidays. What we didn’t know—and maybe no one thought to ponder it—was that this new neighbor would be an arts patron, eager to push Honolulu’s art scene beyond its traditional boundaries. Who would have thought this Texas developer, with its big ideas and dreams, would take the time to understand and invest in local art and artists, while also bringing art from around the world right here to Honolulu? But indeed, and perhaps while no one was looking, that’s exactly what’s happened—a transformation, not just with buildings and streets and an ice rink, but with an impressive array of local art, stunning global works, and plans—big plans—for art to anchor this new urban community.

When you consider the thought and architectural ingenuity that goes into the residential towers—turning to some of the globe’s most renowned architects for vision and design—their commitment to art seems a natural extension. Anaha’s wavy glass symbolizes the ocean’s reflection of light, and Waiea’s design is a tribute to the Hawaiian fishing god Ku’ula, especially his stewardship of the ocean and the art of net making. “We want our residents and neighbors to be inspired by the art that is part of our community, creating dialogue and thought,” says Nick Vanderboom, Howard Hughes’ senior VP for development.

Howard Hughes relies extensively on Hawai’i’s beloved artist Sig Zane to better understand and honor local history and culture. “They’ve embraced the manner we want to tell the stories of our ancestors,” Zane says. “I like that. They’ve elected to illustrate our culture in a permanent manner, embedding it in the community.” For Zane, however, it’s more than presenting Hawaiian culture and art. It’s about good people, doing what’s right. “We spend time surfing with them, laughing with them,” he says. “They understand and embrace Hawaiian culture, even perpetuating it in how they do business.”

The distinct sets of works curated by Maile Meyer to surround the Ae’o and Ke Kilohana construction sites make it clear these aren’t your usual worksites.

Ae’o’s barriers feature Kamran Samimi’s work reflecting the playful yet serious wind patterns of Kaka’ako, Lenny Kaholo’s photography blending a vintage style with modern imagery, and Ara Feducia’s larger-than-life, imaginative depictions of the ae’o, a native bird once plentiful in these fishponds and salt pans. The recently installed barriers at Ke Kilohana use works by a plethora of local artists, bringing to life the rich history of Kilohana, the most ‘Ewa peak visible from the site and a word used to refer to a kapa cloth’s top bedding layer.

Solomon Enos’ installation in the IBM Building lobby pays homage to Keaomelemele, a goddess believed to take on the form of a yellow cloud and whose chants were said to echo throughout Nu’uanu Valley.

At South Shore Market, shoppers gravitate to the mural of playful balloons created by Kelsey Montague whose recent What Lifts You campaign circled the globe exploring inspiration (and creating lines of people waiting to take pictures with her murals). Elsewhere in the Marketplace, Peter Shepard Cole’s dramatic painting of a sun-lit, cresting wave with a solo surfer in the distance captures the essence of a community anchored in the waters just a few hundred feet away.

It’s impossible not to be drawn to Sir Anthony Douglas Cragg’s bronze sculpture anchoring Waiea’s entry. Known for his work exploring the relationship between people and the material world, Cragg’s work span the globe, with exhibitions and installations from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg to the Imperial House of Japan and galleries from London to Athens. Inside, Jeff Colson’s mixed-media piece explores the ephemeral quality of paper and its accumulation and impact on daily life—yet through Colson’s talented eye, creates a sense of peace and harmony.

Zane’s first art installation in Ward Village can be seen along the Queen Lane wall of South Shore Market, a repetition of watermarks that tells a story of the Ward lands and people. “I am honoring ancestors,” he says. “Our intent is to bring the kapuna back to this place, perpetuating what we learned from them and what they lived for.” He pauses and draws a deep breath. “The responsibility is great,” he says. “We must do it right.”

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