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By James Cave | Honolulu Weekly

Images by Darwina Griffin

Follow the murals down Auahi Street in Kakaako, and you’ll find a warehouse on Lana Lane, just diamondhead of the block housing fresh-faced, artsy enterprises such as R/D, Greenhouse and 808 Urban. Like these neighbors, the Lana Lane Studios warehouse provides–instead of, say, auto parts and used tires–a collaborative incubator space. Duck inside, and you may hear Pow! Wow! Hawaii partners Jeffrey Gress and Jasper Wong smacking tools together to build the studios within, or Christian O’Connor, senior asset manager for the commercial real estate division of landowner Kamehameha Schools (KS), schmoozing prospective investors or businesses who might buy into KS’s neighborhood plan. Organic apparel designers Wooden Wavee might be lugging around their screen-printer, while painter Hadley Nunes assembles the walls of her new studio. All are engaged in a united effort to build one of the biggest, newest pieces in the constantly evolving Kakaako art puzzle: an artists’ studio space, founded on the philosophy of networking and collaboration through education.

The ultimate vision for Lana Lane Studios is that of a community center for artists, explains founder Wong. “If an artist is new to Hawaii and wants to connect with other artists, we want this to be the space,” he said. Using John Koga, John PRIME Hina, Maile Meyer and muralist Estria Miyashiro as inspiration and advisers for their art and community orientation, Wong says, “If you look at them, they range between contemporary, urban and native Hawaiian art. They cover the spectrum.”

Although Gress and Wong have only had the keys for about a month, they’ve made vast improvements to the former tire warehouse (not least, removing the rubbery grime that coated the space when they moved in), and the buzz is at such a level that they’re already running out of unclaimed spaces, give or take a few. It’s a huge, multilevel place. Classrooms with donated desks, where tenants teach classes on their craft to kids and other members of the space (a residence requirement), inhabit the lower level of the mauka side. There’s a potential dark room for photographers in the back. VERS Hawaii’s screen printer will fill a studio, and Gress is working on using shelves and cabinets donated from Leahi Hospital to partition the upper level into several 300- to 600-square-foot studios.

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