Membership Highlights

Downtown Art Center

a room with art and objects on display

In the heart of Chinatown’s lively arts district, Downtown Art Center (DAC) stands as a testament to the transformative power of art and community. Established in 2001 as the Honolulu Culture and Arts District, DAC has emerged as a beacon of positive change and a hub for the arts in the heart of Honolulu. 

In 2018, the City and County of Honolulu opened a significant milestone for the arts by leasing 11,404 square feet in the Chinatown Gateway Plaza, in a space left vacant for nine years. With a $75,000 grant from the State of Hawai‘i, volunteers for DAC commenced renovations, transforming vacant spaces into a haven for artistic expression. Work began in September 2020, and the first exhibition in the second-floor gallery – the Hawai‘i Craftsmen Statewide Juried Exhibition – opened that October.

a man painting on a street

DAC is a world-class art center created and paid for in large part by the arts community. Earnings from art and donations from private, government and corporate sources meet current expenses. However, sweat equity is the mainstay of DAC. A handful of paid part-time posts and a few consultants hired for their depth of knowledge of arts and management experience complete the DAC team. They all believe that DAC is key to revitalizing central Honolulu.

DAC succeeds in making creative arts experiences accessible to all. Its mission enhances the quality of life for individuals, families, and all ages and skill levels. Through art exhibitions, special events, and a diverse array of classes and workshops, DAC fosters inclusivity and empowers underserved populations to explore their creative potential.

a group of people standing around a table with bowls

From the Artists of Hawaii juried exhibition, open to all artists in the state of Hawaii, to its active participation in Chinatown’s free, public, monthly First Friday Art Walk, to Saturday make & take art workshops for students of all skill levels, DAC has become a sanctuary for artists and arts enthusiasts. 

DAC collaborates with nine arts nonprofits (Six charter members: Glass Fusion Collective, Hawai‘i Craftsmen, Hawai‘i Potters Guild, Hawai‘i Handweavers Hui, Hawai‘i Watercolor Society, and the Pastel Association of Hawai‘i, in addition to the Hawaii Arts Alliance, Creative Arts Experience and Pacific New Media). Their efforts have revitalized our city’s neglected spaces and provided a beautiful platform for local artists to showcase their talents and connect with larger audiences. 

Nourishing and healing the human spirit are another outcome of DAC’s creative community hub. From workshops aimed at transforming grief through the positive power of art, to live music events, the arts bring people together in a positive social environment and can help them see things from a different perspective. 

Creating art or simply enjoying it as a listener or observer has social, psychological, and physiological benefits. As participants experience positive change, so do their families and communities, underscoring the importance of DAC’s benefit to its surrounding neighborhood.

Downtown Art Center Logo

As DAC embarks on its journey to expand within the Chinatown Gateway Plaza and designate 16 blocks of Chinatown as the Heritage, Entertainment, Art, Restaurants, and Theater (HEART) district, it leads the way for a vibrant and culturally rich future for Hawaii’s creative communities. DAC’s plans reaffirm its commitment to fostering a thriving, inclusive, and resilient community, through the transformative power of the arts.

Ways to connect with Downtown Art Center: Follow on Facebook & Instagram, visit downtownarthi.org, or email info@downtownarthi.org.

Photos courtesy of Downtown Art Center.

Six Ways Downtown Art Center Helps the Community

  • Provides affordable and accessible art opportunities: Our diverse range of DAC exhibitions, events, classes, and workshops make creative arts experiences available to people of all income levels and skill levels. 
  • Fosters collaboration and community engagement: DAC serves as a hub for nine arts nonprofits and works with various entities, including the City and County of Honolulu, Chinatown merchants, other creative organizations, and cultural groups, to organize free public events like the annual HEART of Honolulu Street Festival, or the new quarterly Sunset Arts Market at Fort Street Mall.
  • Supports local artists and art nonprofits: DAC provides resources, such as gallery display spaces, pedestals, movable walls, and marketing, to enable local artists and nonprofits to exhibit and sell their work in a beautiful environment. 
  • Promotes the revitalization of our neighborhood: Through our events and programs, DAC contributes to the transformation of Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu into a unique and vibrant arts and culture district, emphasizing its Heritage, Entertainment, Art, Restaurants, and Theater (HEART), and helping to attract visitors, residents, and businesses to the area. 
  • Supports mental health and well-being through art: DAC offers programming focused on the therapeutic potential of art to promote better mental health, deal with grief, and realize individual potential.
  • Cultivates social connection: DAC provides a welcoming and inclusive space where people can express themselves creatively, come together, and learn and grow from each other. 

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