6 People Making a Difference in Honolulu
Meet a few people making Honolulu a better place for all of us.
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If Rich Richardson builds communities with art, Georja Skinner has built a statewide industry for it. She’s the chief officer of the state’s Creative Industries Division (CID) within the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), and her job exists to make Hawaii a creative destination.
“We’re dedicated to looking at all the creative clusters,” Skinner says, “facilitating programs and initiatives in new media, music, fashion and writing, particularly for all new content platforms,” such as phone apps and tech startups, by making connections between them.
It’s a lot to juggle: According to CID estimates, the creative industry is made up of more than 48,000 people and 3,200 businesses statewide, and Skinner oversees both the Hawaii Film Office and the Arts and Culture Development Branch. “It’s a huge program to manage, based on an average of $250 million in activity per year,” she says.
To give a very brief example of what Skinner does, this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) featured Creative Lab, a series of incubator-type workshops co-created by CID and HIFF that put local screenwriters, filmmakers and musicians in the same room with professionals such as Los Angeles producer and director Michael Palmieri.
“I see local artists benefit a lot from the advocacy that Georja and her team do every year in the Legislature,” says Robert Lambeth, HIFF’s deputy director. “If there was not a creative-industries position in DBEDT or the state, I think it would be a huge disadvantage to local artists.”
“When you think about it, it’s a small team who does that,” Skinner says. But Skinner adds that, rather than looking at where they’ve been, she looks to the future for opportunities.
CID wants to expand the Creative Lab at HIFF to get more international exposure for local filmmakers, get the Hawaii Film Office better funded and staffed and establish a fund for creative media to encourage more tech startups to come out of Hawaii.
“My favorite thing is to connect people and bring them together for a positive outcome,” says Skinner, “to put them at play on a statewide level.”