1. Yes, there are always a few new stores or restaurants, but Hawai’i’s general lack of change is of great comfort when returning home after a long time away. Its consistently “behind the times” feel maintains its laidback appeal and unique culture that I adore, but sometimes even Honolulu can seem a bit, well… boring. Especially when it comes to art and creativity: these things seem to pick up and leave with the youth that moves to the mainland. Which is why I was surprised and delighted to hear of Pow Wow Hawai’i from good friend and local artist Kamea Hadar (his pieces pictured below) while on vacation for the holidays. Now in its second year, Pow Wow aims to be to Honolulu what Art Basel is to Miami – bringing international artists to paradise for a week of communal art productions, focusing on the process and creation rather than just the final product. Festivities begin on February 13th in Kaimuki.
2. The artistic scene on Oahu revolves around Chinatown these days, with the historic buildings converted to artist studios and galleries and more and more boutiques and bistros opening up. This sometimes seedy neighborhood gets festive the first friday of every month for First Fridays, when the galleries stay open late and the bars even later. Come early if you actually want to see some art as the party people start showing up around 9pm.
3. Mark the last Friday of every month on your calendar as well: Art After Dark is my favorite art event in Honolulu. Check out the themed monthly exhibition held at the beautiful indoor-outdoor Honolulu Academy of Arts. Dance under the night sky in the outdoor pavilion to DJs spinning trance and house music or sample the pupus from locavore favorite Town restaurant. This month’s theme – held tonight! – is “The Dragon Enters” and will feature a lion dance and giveaways of brush-painted fans. (Honolulu Academy of Arts, 6 – 9pm, $10 for non-members)
4. If modern art is more your thing, check out the Contemporary Museum on the winding Makiki Heights Drive – it is worth the visit if only for the lush garden setting and great views from its historic Spalding House location. (2411 Makiki Heights Drive, $10 admission)
5. The beauty and romance of old Hawai’i has always fascinated me , so what could be more romantic (or unlikely) than an Islamic palace with views of Diamond Head? Built in 1937 for one of the most wealthy women in the world, Doris Duke’s Shangri La is an estate filled with her vast collection of Islamic art and architecture culled from around the world over decades. Reserve tickets for this popular tour several months in advance. (4055 Papu Circle, $25 admission)