Like the saltpans that inspired its name, SALT will enrich Our Kaka‘ako. In this case, it will be with a public art program.
Text by James Charisma | Image by John Hook
When SALT, the new restaurant and retail center in Our Kaka‘ako, opens in late 2015, it will debut with more than 12 massive works of site-specific public art. The canvases will range from building and alley walls to the entire facade of a parking garage. These creations are intended to serve not only as the face of the new shopping hub, but also as its spirit.
“We have a saying in Hawaiian, ‘E pū pa‘akai kākou,’ says Keoni Kelekolio, Kamehameha School’s director of Hawaiian language advancement. “It literally translates to, ‘Let’s share salt,’ but can be interpreted to mean, ‘Come as you are, bring what you have,’ as all contributions to a meal are accepted and valuable, no matter how humble. Today we’d say, ‘Don’t worry, no shame, just come.’ This is the same casual feeling we want at SALT, where people can meet, share ideas, talents, and food.”
Named for the fishponds and numerous pa‘akai (salt) pans that were abundant in Ka‘ākaukukui, known today as Kaka‘ako, SALT will span an impressive 65,000 square feet. The center is designed to serve the residents living within the area, and to contribute funding to Kamehameha Schools’ educational initiatives statewide.
Another part of SALT’s purpose is to recognize and reflect upon the history of the Kaka‘ako region: It was first a home base to King Kamehameha I and his court, and then an important place for Native Hawaiian agriculture. Here, the spirit of industry lives on. The commissioned pieces of artwork for SALT will serve as a creative narrative for the future.
“We want every courtyard, nook, and alley at SALT to be interesting and discoverable,” Paul Kay, Kamehameha Schools director of development, said in an April press release announcing the public call for artists. “The art, architecture, and industry will combine to tell the story of what was here before us and also be a space to create new stories too.”
Managing the call for artists is Hazel Go of WCIT Architecture. She says that the public works have an opportunity to bring the community together. “From what I’ve seen happening in Kaka‘ako and with groups like Pow! Wow!, it’s apparent that art has not only beautified the facade of businesses in the area, but helps to tell the tale of a community,” Go said. “Whether working together to create art, enjoying an art exhibition, or just looking at a mural, it’s a great conversation starter.”
Kamehameha Schools seems to agree, committing $280,000 for the 12 works, even though the art may change five years down the line. “The work is intended to be a sign of the times,” Go explains. “It makes the streets more walkable and it’s good for physical health, emotional health. It encourages people to come together and helps create energy.”
SALT at Our Kaka’ako, located at Keawe and Auahi streets, will open late 2015. For more information, visit ourkakaako.com/salt.