Mar 30, 2020

While We Were Away: The Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts Grand Opening

people holding hands at the Hawaii grand opening

While We Were Away: Reflections on the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts Grand Opening

On February 27, 2020, Artspace staff hosted the Grand Opening of the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts which has provided affordable 79 rental homes in Honolulu to more than 80 artists and their families and those who have been displaced by rising rents.  The project would have not been possible without our project partners the PA’I Foundation, EAH Housing, and building residents. Artspace Grand Opening events are an opportunity for Artspace residents (artists and non-artists) to participate in a moment of co-creation. Grand Openings demonstrate how residents would like their creative community to flourish and the welcoming spirit in which they hope to move forward and live together with one another. It is also an opportunity for us to celebrate the collective contributions of our development partners, friends, and supporters that helped make this project a reality.

Last month’s joyful two-part event welcomed upwards of 150 guests during an afternoon luncheon, and 379 people during an evening celebration full of memorable artistic and cultural experiences that were unique to Artspace’s inaugural property on the Hawaiian Islands. The daytime program opened with a Oli Aloha & Ho‘okomo, a traditional Native Hawaiian welcome and greeting by Nā Kumu Hula Vicky & Jeff Takamine & Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima with Hula kahiko.  Nā Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine also closed the daytime event with a song and blessing, where guests held hands in the spirit of Aloha. Both programs also featured collaborative dance pieces performed by emerging choreographer and Ola Ka ‘lima Artspace Lofts resident ShenRu Yong, where she used the architectural elements and multiple spaces of the building as her stage. Both events featured open studios in artists' homes and visual art exhibitions in the building’s amenity spaces. Event tours showcased multiple genres of artistic practice and expression, including video game design, cosplay, lei making, filmmaking, live cooking demonstrations, photography exhibitions, live painting, and more. 

Looking back, in today’s context, it feels like an event that was surreal. Today the community spaces in the building are closed until the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Still, artists at Ola Ka ‘Ilima support one another by helping their neighbors in so many ways. 

I look forward to the day when we’re post-pandemic, and when it will be safe for Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts to open its doors to public events once again. I am sure this community equally looks forward to welcoming people in the spirit of the broader creative hub and community resource it is intended to be.