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46 Merchant St
Honolulu, HI, 96813
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Kumu Kahua Theatre Comes to the Aid of The ARTS at Marks Garage

Donna Blanchard

Kumu Kahua Theatre is now a sponsor of The ARTS at Marks Garage, enabling The ARTS to keep their doors open in downtown Honolulu. “The ARTS is too important an entity to let them flounder,” said Kumu Kahua Theatre Managing Director Donna Blanchard. “As soon as we heard The ARTS needed some help, we knew we had to figure out a way support them.” Kumu Kahua Theatre is doing that by sponsoring The ARTS at Marks Garage. In exchange for financial support, Kumu Kahua Theatre receives recognition (read: advertising) from The ARTS.

Five years ago the board and staff of Kumu Kahua Theatre were in dire straights. Funding from the city and state had diminished year after year, until the organization had to make some drastic changes to survive. In a desperate cry for help, Artistic Director Harry Wong approached the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and broke the story that the theatre could no longer continue to exist if they didn’t receive financial support. The community of Hawai‘i answered the call and provided Kumu Kahua Theatre with the support they needed to change their fate. They hired a new managing director and made vital changes to their infrastructure that is producing health and sustainability for the organization.

“There is poetry in this alliance,” continues Blanchard. “As the community insisted on the existence of Kumu Kahua Theatre, we are carrying the torch forward and creating a win/win situation with The ARTS. We believe we are both vital to the health of downtown Honolulu and the artistic spirit that must thrive in Hawai‘i.”

When they opened 15 years ago in Chinatown, The ARTS was generously supported by the city and state. Their fate has mirrored that of the 45-year-old Kumu Kahua Theatre, but at a much more rapid pace.

“Kumu and Marks are both about telling our own stories” says Rich Richardson, Executive Director for The ARTS at Marks.  “Rather than providing something prepackaged for our entertainment, both institutions provide much more value. Working together to create our own shows is good for our social fabric, our economy and our capacity to innovate. This is a threshold moment for our arts scene, and our deepest gratitude goes out to Kumu Kahua staff, board and dedicated patrons.”

Blanchard drafted a proposal for The ARTS Executive Director Rich Richardson, which included collaboration coordinated through Charisma Industries – the dynamic creative agency now utilized by both organizations.  

“Kumu Kahua Theatre and The ARTS at Marks Garage are two cornerstones of the downtown arts community. It’s wonderful to see them come together in the spirit of collaboration and sustainability, and we’re honored to be able to help support and promote this exciting new partnership with our marketing design and branding capabilities,” says James Charisma, creative director of Charisma Industries.

In an effort to further diversify their income streams, Blanchard is also working with Richardson on locating and applying to suitable grantors. The two will continue to seek out ways to collaborate for the betterment and sustainably of a thriving artistic center in downtown Honolulu.

The mission of The ARTS at Marks Garage is to transform our community with the power of the arts, and establish Honolulu’s Chinatown as the creative capital of the Pacific.

The mission of Kumu Kahua Theatre is to provide theatrical opportunities for the expression of local community lifestyles, whether contemporary or historical; to stage locally written plays set in Hawai`i or dealing with some aspect of the experience of Hawai‘i residents; to provide training and theatrical experiences for local playwrights, directors, performers and other theatrical artists; and to develop an increasingly large audience sensitive to plays and theatre pieces dealing specifically and truthfully with local subject matter.

Kumu Kahua productions are supported in part by The Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and Arts through appropriations from the Legislature of the State of Hawai‘i and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Also paid for in part by the taxpayers of the City & County of Honolulu; the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts; The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, McInerny Foundation (Bank of Hawaii, Trustee); Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) Charitable Foundation, The Atherton Foundation and Hawaiian Electric Company; The Star-Advertiser and other foundations, businesses and patrons.