Giving Creative Youths A New Voice
The young hip-hop community has a friend in Nicole “Niki” Kealoha.
Kealoha’s Diverse Art Center offers after-school classes in dance, DJ and urban art for young people. She says her 3,500-square-foot Kakaako studio is a hot spot for youths to get creative in a positive, supportive and productive environment.
“We use the arts not only to develop their skills, but to give them a voice,” she says. “We also let them know that their voice does not need to be one with no integrity and no character. We try to help them in their lives through the arts. It is our gateway to get them to a better place.”
The center also offers performance poetry and a special-needs class. Its human beat-box class - where students learn to use their voice to do percussion sounds and mimic DJs scratching records on turntables - has never been done in a classroom setting.
“It’s like vocals,” she says. “You have to do vocal warm-ups and strengthening and stretching.”
She also has an aerosol class, which is graffiti art.
“We are trying to change the mindset of everyone - of our youths and our community - about the stigma that is attached to the word graffiti,” she says. “It is a redirection of the youths’ energy.”
In the aerosol class, students are sometimes invited to do murals for beautification of businesses and in exchange, when they’re finished, the students keep the leftover expensive paints.
They are under strict direction to use their talents wisely.
“Some of our instructors have a fine arts background, and they also are teaching our students about the freedom of street art,” explains Kealoha, noting that they work with local artists.
The Castle High graduate did hip-hop dancing with Base, Big City Productions and 24-VII. Her background is varied: She has worked as a bank teller and as a performance arts assistant. It was during a transition period in her life when she pondered starting this business.
“How can I connect my need to use my passion for the creative arts and leave a legacy - for not only my children, but for the generations to come, and to impact the character of the younger generation?” says Kealoha, who started Diverse Art Center in October 2008.
She acknowledges that the success of her endeavors is made possible with the support of her friends, colleagues, collaborators and especially her husband Kalvin, and their children, Chloe, 9, and Ethan, 3.
To get the word out about what the Diverse Art Center does, Kealoha has several plans, including performances on Centerstage at Ala Moana Center. Meanwhile, beginning Feb. 13 at the studio, there is a once-a-month bboy dance-off.
From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 27 the studio will use its parking lot to host an elements of hip-hop festival called Kala Hookuku Pahiahia (Art: Day of War) Competition, with booths, competitions for emcees, crew-on-crew b-boy and aerosol on canvas.
“We want the community to know what the youth is involved in,” adds Kealoha. “We want the community to know that it can be a lot more positive in its influence. We want to give the youth a platform to let them know you can be successful and you can use your art form without being destructive.”
Diverse Art Center is located at 1024 Queen St. on the second floor. Hours of operation are Mondays through Thursdays, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 275-7776, or go to: http://www.myspace.com/diverse arthi or diverseart.word-press.com.
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