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6 People Making a Difference in Honolulu

Meet a few people making Honolulu a better place for all of us.


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Rich Richardson

As the executive director of The ARTS at Marks Garage, the Hawaii Academy of Performing Arts (HAPA) and the Chinatown Artists Lofts, Rich Richardson is living proof of the theory that art builds communities.

While restaurateurs such as Dave Stewart, Don Murphy, J.J. Niebuhr, Danny Dolan and Glenn Chu were fueling Chinatown’s 1990s renaissance with food and booze, Richardson was building a network of artists through his Chinatown gallery, Salon5. He’s quick to downplay his role: “I feel like an interchangeable type,” he says. “It didn’t have to be me; it could have been someone else who saw the diamond in the rough.” But it’s possible that erasing Richardson from Chinatown’s history wouldn’t mean just taking out the art; it would remove the community from the neighborhood.

Looking at a map of Chinatown these days is like playing Six Degrees of Richardson. Bradley Rhea and Jon Saupe, owners of the boutique Barrio Vintage, live in the Artists Lofts, as do Manifest owners Brandon Reid and Justin Park. Designer Roberta Oaks Power says she saw a vacant retail space on Pauahi Street while walking from the parking garage to meet with Richardson. Four years later, her store is still there.

Richardson and HAPA started First Friday in Chinatown and organize many of the street festivals there, and 16 organizations consider The ARTS at Marks their headquarters, including the Cherry Blossom Cabaret, Youth Speaks Hawaii and the PA‘I Foundation.

“I’m intrigued by community as art,” Richardson says. “Spaghetti as art. I’m thinking the potluck with your boring neighbors might have more artistic value than watching the most popular film on Netflix by yourself. That’s what I like about Hawaii, the multigenerational structure of culture. Enjoying space together out of doors, the whole breaking bread thing, the barbecue. It’s like, bring a dish. I love that as a model.”

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Honolulu Magazine July 2020
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