“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” When Margaret Mead said that, she could have been talking about a lot of community groups, including the small, hard working team that has kept the ARTS at Marks Garage alive for fifteen years now. HPR's Noe Tanigawa reports.
YouthSpeaks Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Craftsmen, Pa’i Foundation, Hawai‘i Shakespeare Festival, acting classes, art shows, the thriving Mendonca Artists’ Lofts, the fact that the ARTS at Marks has been pivotal in the revitalization of Honolulu's Chinatown, these are just a few of the reasons to celebrate this weekend.
The ARTS at Marks Garage celebrates fifteen years of community this Saturday night, November 19th, on their rooftop in Chinatown from 6-10pm. Taimane leads the entertainment lineup which includes Afro-Funk band Good Foot, and HPR's DJ Mr. Nick. Find “Raise the Roof” tickets at the Marks Garage website.
The mission of the Arts at Marks Garage is: To transform our community with the power of the arts and establish Honolulu's Chinatown as the creative capital of the Pacific. After fifteen years on the job, the transforming community part is coming along well.
Marks is an incubator for over a dozen performance and visual arts groups, there are numbers of youth programs, over one hundred fifty events staged per year and well over forty five thousand visitors participate per year. Few, however, have ever been to the roof of Marks Garage. With no elevator,it can be a bit of a haul, but community builders are tough.
The Marks rooftop is right at the corner of Nu'uanu and Pauahi streets, with an eye level view of the Hawaii
Theatre sign. Arts promoter Mark Tarone says a party on the rooftop came to them about a year ago, and the amount of space was inspiring.
“There’s going to be a roller derby exhibition. We have forty roller derby women coming and ready to party. We’re going to have our stage here, so here will be big wedding style tents along there. Along that wall, our food vendors, we’ve JJ Dolans, Bethel Union, Palate, and Grondin. Great food, some of Chinatown best eateries, and we’ve become known as a food destination, so we're happy to have them keeping everything tasty. Beverage tent there as well. All inclusive, once you walk in, you’re all set with complimentary drinks and pupus so that will add to the spirit for sure.”
A state of the art keynote is planned by Solomon Enos and Carl Pao. “You don’t get that interactive experience that often. For many of us when we think about Marks Garage, we think of that engagement. It’s not just someplace you sit and look, it’s almost always interactive.”
“Fifteen years ago, about, we did the first First Friday.” Richard Duggan is one of the old timers.
“I brought my grill in from Kāne‘ohe. We cooked 200 vegetable kebabs out on the street and we had about 200 visitors. A couple years later, we had nights when we had 2400 people coming through the gallery. It was kind of a madhouse at that point.”
Youth today don’t remember when Chinatown had no cute clothes shops, no local jewelry and arts, no French Latin bistro, no Vietnamese fusion food, no gourmet pizza! No live music, no trivia nights, and no Marks Garage, one seed project that took root and is building community.
“I think people need to spend some time together to feel like they belong here in our urban core, and that’s a healthy thing to do right now.” ARTS at Marks’ Executive Director Rich Richardson is not prone to hyperbole. Others on this planning committee see the moment as ripe for just what Marks’ offers.
“It’s cooperative. It’s all about love. We are a team here, and it’s family and it’s aloha, and we need a lot of that.”
After a renovation, February will mean new partnerships as Marks becomes a hub for alternative travel. City funded clean bathrooms and advice right in Chinatown, plus ways visitors can learn and contribute to local communities through travel. Board member Allana Coffee sees reason to celebrate.
“We’ve planned a great party, so we need very little. We just need people to come in and have a good time.”