Nestled in a courtyard on the Kapiolani Community College campus near Diamond Head, Koa Gallery provides an intimate setting to showcase the artwork of students, educators and staff, as well as the broader community.
After having been closed for more than a year, Koa Gallery is set to reopen on Friday with an retrospective exhibition focusing on eight significant shows held at the gallery between 1990 and 2000.
“Koa Gallery has a storied past,” says Drew Broderick, recently appointed director. “Supporting the gallery’s future begins by acknowledging its history.”
Broderick, soft-spoken and lanky, is a Makiki resident with a master’s degree in Curatorial Studies from Bard College in New York.
As both an artist and curator, he says, “I have come to recognize in my brief time at the gallery that, at certain moments in its development, Koa Gallery has been committed to artists and art of Hawaii, Oceania, and the Asia-Pacific region at large.”
EXHIBITIONS BEING revisited are “Toshiko Takaezu” (1990); “Te Atinga: An exhibition of contemporary Maori Art” (1991); “Hawai‘i/New York/Hawai‘i” (1995); “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…Not!” (1995); “Pacific Voices” (1997); “Avatars of Culture” (1998); “Ka Una Pa‘a — a wedge that holds fast” (1999); and “Master to Apprentice” (2000).
Art by Takaezu, Kazu Kauinana, Hal Lum, Noe Tanigawa, Sean K. L. Browne, ‘Imaikalani Kalahele, Wright Bowman, Sr., and Kaili Chun is included, in a variety of media.
Broderick also included material related to the exhibitions from the gallery’s archives, including artist correspondences, announcement cards, press releases, installation images and exhibition reviews.
“Hawai‘i/New York/Hawai‘i” chronicled the experiences of young Hawaii artists who found their way to New York and eventually returned to Hawaii. One piece that represents that exhibit in grand fashion is a huge, colorful painting by well-known artist Noe Tanigawa.
“It is a painting I made in my Hudson Street studio in New York City in 1991,” Tanigawa explained. “It was fall, getting dark by 4 p.m., and leaves were swirling in eddies on the sidewalk.
“The painting is oil, aerosol and encaustic on canvas. Each medium can be deployed in any number of ways, so I used all the ways I liked at the time, including palette knife application, washes, free hand drawing and stenciling.
“Each mode of application lends a certain texture, and the painting becomes a landscape, a record of what happened there. In this case, some of the stencils reference animal pelts, and the figure is part animal/human.
“I suppose the idea is a sort of awakening.”
Koa Gallery might have become only a memory if it had not been for Sarah Bremser, chair of the Arts and Humanities Department at KCC, providing a voice to the wishes of the students, faculty and art-loving community. She became a pivotal figure in advocating for its reopening.
“Just as the science disciplines need laboratories, the arts need galleries, which are essentially laboratories of creativity and learning,” Bremser said. “The number of galleries on Oahu has unfortunately dwindled over the years. So now, more than ever, the Koa Gallery is a crucial creative exhibition and programming space.”
Also supportive of the reopening is Russell Sunabe, a well-respected professor of art in the University of Hawaii system, who has been a Koa Gallery advisory board member for nearly 10 years.
“When the gallery closed last year, local artists I know felt the loss of yet another central gallery space and are anticipating its reopening,” Sunabe said. “I believe, under Broderick’s direction, Koa Gallery will play a significant role in providing a strong, integral educational and progressive space at KCC for ideas, creativity, and expression.”
Sunabe’s sentiments were echoed by former KCC student and now internationally-known artist Yumiko Glover, who has exhibited her work at Koa Gallery many times.
Glover says, “I still remember how excited I was the first time I showed my work at Koa Gallery. I have always felt that this venue has a strong tie to the local community, which provides a lot of support to the gallery and artists.”
“KOA GALLERY 1990-2000: SELECTIONS FROM AN ONGOING EXHIBITION HISTORY”
>> Where: Koa Gallery, Kapiolani Community College
>> When: Opening reception 5-8 p.m. Friday; continues 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday through Dec. 21
>> Cost: Free
>> Info: 734-9374, kapiolani.hawaii.edu/project/koa-gallery