By Léo Azambuja

From left to right, theater director Donovan Cabebe and business partners Chris Serve and Karlos DeTraux.

From left to right, theater director Donovan Cabebe and business partners Chris Serve and Karlos DeTraux.

Creativity takes courage, the late French painter Henri Matisse once said. For Karlos and Kathy DeTreaux, this sounds just about right.

With 15 minutes to decide whether to embark on a 12-year lease for an all-inclusive art center in the heart of Hanalei Town, Kathy took the leap of courage. Karlos followed suit, and brought along a few partners — Chris Serve, Linda Lee-Brake, Dean Rogers, Amy Sue, Frank Hagen and Stuart Martin.

This is somewhat how The General Store of Hanalei, housed in a historic building constructed in 1906, came to life earlier this year. And the art world says thank you very much.

“It’s really crazy but it’s really exciting,” Karlos said.

Why be Board? Exhibition

Why be Board? Exhibition

On Feb. 2, the Chinese New Year, the gallery had a soft opening, and had to make “an honest sale” as required by one of the landlords, who is of Chinese descent, Karlos said. In March, they opened for good, representing a wide variety of artists.

In May, the gallery hosted Why Be Board?, a skateboard art show with 120 artists. There were no rules, and the result was art made with all kinds of media; metal sculptures, musical instruments, lamps, mosaics, stained glass, watercolor, paper, color pencils and etc. There were artists as young as 4 years old.

“We realized there’s a need for art that is not in the high-end level, that’s community art,” Karlos said.

musicThe next exhibit, Art is Medicine, will be late July, and will be open to 100 artists. In August, they plan to distribute 100 ukuleles for an event similar to the skateboard show.

Meanwhile, the gallery has art for every taste and budget. Their artists range from children to a 79-year-old linen artist, and the prices can be as little as $20 or as high as $10,000.

Manager Jennifer Hawkins said when people walk in, the gallery’s energy just moves them.

“We have so many different levels of artists, and different levels of talent that there’s something here for everyone, something that everyone can relate to, and it just feels good,” she said. “It’s a place where everyone feels like they belong.”

But art exhibits and sales are just two aspects of this ambitious project. The General Store is taking the art center seriously.

Opening night

Opening night

In the back of the gallery there is a stage setup with professional lighting, sound system and projector screens. The space will be used for music, community meetings and anything else imaginable.

“I grew up playing music, I love music and art,” said Chris adding he likes the aspect of a gathering place for artists and the community, something Hanalei lacks.

The side entrance will have an espresso and kava bar.

Upstairs, a small room will have chairs and a collection of some 1,500 art books donated by the community. The next room will be for printmaking and jewelry, and will be equipped with six iMac computers for an Internet café.

There’s also a room for dance classes, a lanai for plein-air artists, a room for resident artists and another for art classes.

Artist Patrick Ching

Artist Patrick Ching

Outside, in the back parking lot of Ching Young Village, a 20-foot container will house gardening classes and pottery making.

Karlos said because there are so many partners in the project, and they all have jobs, no one has to live off the project at least for the first couple years. So they can take the time to do it right, he said.

The late Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, a lifelong friend of Matisse, once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”

The crew at The General Store of Hanalei is proving just that.

They are at 5-5150 Kuhio Hwy., at Ching Young Village, and can be reached at 825-6441.

Visit for more information.

Blackboard art at the side entrance.

Blackboard art at the side entrance.