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Arts & Culture

A nonprofit wants to keep Spalding House for the public as a hub for local filmmakers

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In Hawaiʻi's hot real estate market, one significant Makiki property has remained unsold for nearly two years.

The Honolulu Museum's Spalding House, the former Contemporary Museum, has been up for sale since 2019. Now, a nonprofit has been formed to secure the property for public use as a film center.

Spalding House on Tantalus is a handsome 5,000-square-foot tropical modernist estate. It sits on 3.4 acres overlooking downtown Honolulu. The Honolulu Museum of Art listed the former Contemporary Museum property in December 2019 for $15 million.

"The Spalding House is the place that encourages creativity. It's a place that empowers people to dream, to create, to be together," said Jeannette Paulsen Hereniko, president of the new nonprofit Hawaiʻi Film Foundation of Nuʻumealani.

Their goal is to keep Spalding House for the public, as a hub for Hawaiʻi filmmakers and film organizations.

"You're right we could always go to a warehouse or Chinatown in a building somewhere, but there's something about the Spalding House that contains its history and the mana of the artwork that used to be there," Hereniko said.

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Hereniko founded the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival and directed its first 15 years.

With increased international interest in Hawaiʻi films, Hereniko says now is the time to invest in Hawaiʻi's film future with meeting and seminar rooms, screening facilities, technical resources, and more.

"It does take someone to say, 'Screw it, this is an important vision and we're going to do it.' And that's how we, this group of people that's growing bigger and bigger by the day, this is how we feel about this vision," she said.

Hereniko cites HFF members filmmaker Heather Giuni who founded the ʻUluʻulu moving image archive, publisher Jason Cutinella of NMG Network, and veteran producer Jason Suapaia as central to the effort.

Sarah Bakewell, a broker with Hawaiʻi Life, will help with the sale. Former Gov. Neal Abercrombie, Kirsten Faulkner of the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation, and actor-producer Daniel Dae Kim are among those featured in a video supporting the Spalding House project.

Nonprofit supporters in the local film industry include HIFF, Hawaii Women in Filmmaking, Pacific Islanders in Communication, the Hawaii Filmmakers Collective, the DBEDT Creative Lab and the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Academy of Creative Media.

"We may not get $15 million but let's give it a try and let's say to the Honolulu Museum of Art, 'This is what we've got. Let's do this, let's make this happen.'"

When asked where she thinks the money's going to come from, she said, "The money's going to come from your listeners, Noe, who believe in the arts and they're going to say, 'I want to pledge 250,000.' Now you think that's impossible? That happened to me yesterday."

"It was anonymous, of course, so I'm not going to say. It's just starting the momentum."

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