Cultivating Creative Energy At Lanalane Studios

Late in the afternoon on a Tuesday, Gavin Murai is in his office at Lana Lane Studios working on an advertising piece for Honolulu Night Market. As the owner of web, print and art firm Reckon Shop, Murai free-lances with a number of larger companies, including Street Grindz and Cocina (he’s also the director of visuals at food distributor Miso & Ale, so a lot of his work tends to be in the food industry), designing websites and managing social media.

Although his business is not formally connected to those of the 30-something other artists who occupy office space at Lana Lane Studios in Kakaako, he often finds himself collaborating with them.

“If I have a question about Photoshop, for example, I can walk downstairs,” Murai says. “Things that would have probably taken me years to learn, I can pick up in a couple of months here.”

Collaborations like this have proven to be mutually beneficial. A few months ago, for example, Murai was looking for innovative marketing solutions for Miso & Ale. Anthony Vallejo-Sanderson, who runs his video production company at Lana Lane, suggested that they shoot a video. The piece helped Murai’s business — and later, a company that saw the video hired Vallejo-Sanderson for another project.

It’s that type of symbiotic relationship that Lana Lane Studios sought to foster when it opened about two years ago. Located in the heart of Kakaako, amid a slew of other industrial warehouses down a small side street, it’s the kind of place you might miss if you don’t know it’s there. But inside, there are photographers, videographers, painters, illustrators, web designers and musicians spread out over two stories and 17 separate offices.

“We wanted to put a large variety of mediums in one place so that they could teach each other and share their experiences and what they are interested in as artists and be able to collaborate,” explains Lana Lane lead director Jeffrey Gress. “It’s just been a great way to share that knowledge base … It’s the multi-faceted skill sets that are here that allow for collaboration.”

Lana Lane was conceptualized by Kamehameha Schools — which recognized the value of bringing art to Kakaako during Pow! Wow! Hawaii — and was brought to life by co-founders Gress and Jasper Wong, who had worked together at Pow! Wow! and at community arts gallery Loft in Space.

Other Lana Lane artists include Matt and Roxy Ortiz of creative consulting firm Wooden Wave, oil painter Hadley Nunes and photographer Adam Jung.

Much of what is in the space has been built out by the artists themselves — and much of it through re-purposed, recycled or donated materials. It’s equipped with a conference room, video-editing lab and a recording studio.

Gress feels that one of the biggest benefits of Lana Lane is the networking that the space encourages. Many of the artists have landed accounts with prestigious local companies — and having those types of connections in-house has been valuable for others. Plus, the space gives each of the individual artists access to equipment and materials that they may not have working alone.

It also, Gress feels, cultivates friendly professional competition.

“It’s great because you come into work, and you are inspired by all the other people doing stuff,” says Gress, a graphic designer.† “It inspires you to up your game.”

One of the greatest values that Gress sees Lana Lane having is bolstering the local art community — while helping them make a living without leaving Hawaii.

But whether they vocalize it or not, there have got to be questions about what will happen to Lana Lane when the area’s development really begins to ramp up. Will developers want a warehouse full of young artists in what could be profitable residential or retail space? Will residents in those upcoming high rises want to live next to it?

For now, though, it seems that Lana Lane has a promising future in mind. It’s currently in the process of building a wood shop — which Gress says is one of the final touches of the studios’ build-out. It also hopes to increase its community outreach; it already runs programs like the art and music schools affiliated with Pow! Wow! and plans to expand workshops and educational opportunities.

Later that night, Lana Lane music directors Gotaro Oshitari and Osna Ronquilio have a studio session with singer/songwriter Analee Viena-Lota (aka Ana Vee), to produce her first album. Ana Vee is just one of a number of musicians they have in the pipeline. Other projects include Mahi Crabbe and indie pop band The Bougies.

“Everybody is influencing each other to just keep working hard,” Oshitari says of Lana Lane. “The creativity energy just flows throughout the studio.”