Vision becomes vibrant gallery

HANAPEPE — When artist Joanna Carolan stood in front of a dilapidated, rundown Hanapepe storefront in 1999, all she could see was a vibrant gallery.

“With painting, you visualize what you want to be there,” Carolan said.

Four years later, she opened the Banana Patch Studio in a restored historic building that’s at once bright and modern — and not too far off from her vision.

Since then, Carolan has only looked forward — for her own business, and for the town as part of the Hanapepe Economic Alliance’s leadership.

The alliance, the primary community organization for the artists’ enclave, has made strides in revitalizing the town. Over the past few years it has completed a number of small improvement projects — from planting a dozen shade trees along the path to Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, to solar-powered lights for the town’s gateway sign, to creating a historic walking tour and a kiosk promoting it in the Lihu‘e Airport.

“Each thing kind of leads to the next,” said Angela Headley, Hanapepe Economic Alliance president.

The group’s latest project is a full-color booklet marketing the works of 26 Hanapepe artists. By creating a guide to what’s available, the alliance hopes to promote the use of local art in new developments around the island.

“There’s enough great local art being made here,” Carolan said.

About 3,200 booklets were printed using a grant from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, which has on numerous occasions funded alliance initiatives. Many have been distributed to design, real estate and development professionals in the first month, though the alliance doesn’t expect to see business from the effort until later in the year.

Headley said property owners and other professionals have been “stunned” to see the quality and diversity of Hanapepe art after perusing the “Hanapepe Design Resource.”

Collectively, the alliance’s work has focused on drawing people to Hanapepe by embracing the things that make it unique: a community of artists, the Westside history, its unassuming facade.

“It sort of seems like a sleepy little town, but that is what brings people here,” Carolan said.

Looking forward, the alliance hopes to restore the closed and aging Aloha Theater, which she described as the “eyesore” of Hanapepe as her own Banana Patch building once was.

There is also talk of bringing back the Christmas lights that were once an annual tradition, adding more photovoltaic systems to power street lights, planting shade trees along the town’s main corridor, and working with the state tourism agency to fund a Native Hawaiian-based project.

All will take time and money, but the key to getting a group of strong-minded artists to work together is by brainstorming on “workable” ideas that people can devote time to, Carolan said.

As with paintings, the end result may differ from the vision, but it’s the “drive to create” that keeps Carolan — and the alliance — moving forward.

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com

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