Exploring the arts

We corresponded with Heather Williams of the Art Explorium in Kaimuki as part of our collection on the Makers Movement.

Hawaii Independent Staff

The Makers aren’t just in Kaka‘ako.

Kaimuki, a walkable extension of Honolulu perched on Wai‘alae Avenue, is the site of Art Explorium, a new atelier for kids. We spoke with one of the founders, Heather Williams.

What’s the story behind the Explorium? What is its inspiration?

Art Explorium simply started as an art studio for kids. One big inspiration was a Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson about how schools kill creativity, and the importance of nurturing creativity in children. Another inspiration was the fact that so many kids in Hawaii have such little access to art. So two couples (Taiji and Naoko Terasaki and my husband Nate Smith and I) decided to start an art studio for kids. It would be a safe, affordable space for kids to come in and do art activities, take art workshops, have birthday parties, etc. We got the idea to reuse a lot of things that are normally thrown away from Kim and Jack Johnson at the Kokua Hawaii Foundation. (They take their kids to a similar place in Santa Barbara called Art From Scrap.) The Terasaki Family Foundation has generously provided funding for us to get our programs up and running.

What role should art play in a child’s development?

Art helps brain development. It helps children develop fine motor skills. And it helps children think things through, problem solve and think creatively. At the same time, though, the kids are having so much fun they don’t even realize that they are learning and that art is helping them grow.

I saw this PBS special called Art & the Mind that had a big impact on me and really reaffirmed why I wanted to work for Art Explorium. In it neuroscientist Jay Giedd says, “Far from being a frivolous waste of time, it’s actually an essential part of how the brain learns to get by in its world and to learn the skills necessary to make it on to adolescence and into adulthood.”

Unfortunately art opportunities are being reduced or removed completely from many public schools in Hawaii. But what if you’re that kid who isn’t as good at math or language arts, but you have the potential to be an amazing artist? What if you learn in a more visual way or a more right-brain way? I worry about a society that places a lower value on the arts, because arts have been important to every culture since the beginning of human civilization.

Is there a special story about an Explorium customer that you’d like to share?

There are so many little gems that I love that happen all the time. I just love seeing children walk into our studio and seeing their eyes light up when they start to realize there are no right or wrong answers here: yes, they can draw on the walls here; yes, they can play with “trash” (corks, fabric scraps, bottle caps, etc.) here; yes, they can make anything they want here. Kids ask us all the time if they can live here in our studio (and if we live here!).

I also love the community feeling of Art Explorium. I have really enjoyed feeling like we are part of the Kaimuki community and even the greater Oahu community. There are families who come in regularly and I am proud to call them friends that I have made through Art Explorium. And I have seen children make friends with other children in here, and meet here on a regular basis. One of our volunteers even became the babysitter for one of our regular families! It is a really happy place, where both art and friendships are created – what could be better?

Art Explorium Studio
1142 Koko Head Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816