KAILUA-KONA — It’s a place of creation, a place of improvement, and, most important, a place of friendship.
Since 1965, Kona Arts Center has been a sanctuary for artists on the Big Island to get out of their home studios and work together on their artistic skills. After decades together, the members of the center hope it can have a resurgence in interest and attendance with the opening of its new location this year.
The center is hosting its grand reopening from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at its new location inside Kaiwi Square on Kaiwi Street in the Old Industrial Area of Kailua-Kona. Artists and art collectors are invited Saturday to the open house to see what Kona Arts Center has to offer after more than 50 years of being a part of the West Hawaii community.
“We’re interested in bringing in people who want to look at the art, but what we’re really interested in is people who would like to come work with us,” Rick Turnbow said.
Kona Arts Center currently has 10 members in its ranks, and the center is their studio, where they can create art, sell it, and receive feedback from the other artists.
The center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday and Saturday, with a drop-in fee of $10. A monthly donation is collected from members to help keep the group afloat. Art workshops, taught by the center’s members, will also be provided this year, although a set schedule has yet to be released.
Turnbow said the center is looking for those who have been artists their entire life to people who have never done it at all.
“It’s a group of artists that like working together and enjoying each other’s company,” Turnbow said. “We come in two days a week and have working sessions and critiquing sessions with each other.”
Karen Nakashima is a silk painter who discovered Kona Arts Center after attending art workshops they offered. A decade later, she’s still a member.
”It’s comfortable here,” Nakashima said. “They are all accepting of whatever you’re doing. They support everyone else.”
The center was founded in 1965 by Bob and Carol Rogers, and was originally located in what was called the Coffee Mill Workshop in Holualoa. Forever searching for a permanent home, the center since then has moved to two different locations in Kainaliu and to a space in the Keauhou Shopping Center. While its new location offers the right price for the small, mostly older, group, the artists are less visible to pedestrians and tourists.
The center hopes to counteract that problem with the reopening Saturday, and eventually return to the Kona Arts Center glory days.
“When we were in Holualoa with Aunty Carol and Uncle Bob, tour buses used to come and drop them off right by the art center,” member Edna Fukumitsu said. “We had a lot of visitors in those days.”
Despite the lack of visitors, the members still have each other, which they consider their No. 1 reason for coming back week after week. Fukumitsu works side by side with local artists Nakashima and Katherine Lind, and also seasonal visitors such as Carol Tyerman and Tracey Vanbeselaere, both who are yearly visitors from Canada, and they are all at the center for the socialization aspect of the group, not just the art.
“Honestly, we just come for the camaraderie,” Vanbeselaere said. “It’s great to be with different artists, and everyone is wonderful. For me when I’m doing something, I like that they’re giving you a critique, but in a way that’s very helpful.”
Turnbow has been a member of the Kona Arts Center for five years, and it has changed the way he paints.
“I have a studio in my house, and I haven’t used it in two years,” Turnbow said. “It’s part inspiration and part collegiality. It’s just more fun to be around other people. There are some people here who have been painting longer than I’ve been alive, and I’m not young. If you come to a point where you don’t really know what to do, and or you just want someone to look at your art, it’s really nice to have people that have a great deal of expertise.”