talk story

῾elua – john koga believes “always pass on what you have learned.” – yoda

Our “talk story” narratives arise from our drive to know more about intriguing residents of Hawai’i, art and culture.  The format is simple and casual – we meet face to face, pose a few straightforward questions, shoot some photos and document the conversation as it naturally evolves. Whatever cool thing we discover is available here for all that want to tune in and get the scoops too.

John Koga, born and raised in Manoa, launched his artistic career from Hawaii and is among our island’s most successful modernists. Represented by three galleries – Fine Arts AssociatesCedar Street Galleries and Ralph Pucci International, this versatile artist with abundant talent and enviable tenacity is living his dreams.

Genuinely humble and enthusiastic, John attributes his incredible mentors’ support, ability to focus, and solution orientation as important factors that contributed to where he is today. Motivated by the desire to express organic, experimental, playful art in a functional, pleasing and balanced format, we learned that he thrives on challenges!  Chrissy and I were entertained by John’s stories about obstacles he has faced and the corresponding fixes. The singular question of “Now how do I accomplish this?” plunges John into “the zone” of his artistic process.

During our visit, we had the opportunity to glimpse three projects in progress; 1) Maquette for the Waipahu transit station. This project is part of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) Transit Art Program – public art displayed at the 21 stations along the rail route and at the train control center in Waipahu. John is collaborating on the design with the Waipahu community to create a three- dimensional sculpture that simultaneously reflects the essence of the surrounding community, honors its history and projects a real sense of its character. 2) A line of custom furniture designs for Ralph Pucci International. Like destiny this opportunity echoes the path artist Isamu Noguchi, a mega inspiration to John, pursued. Noguchi (1904-1988) was a sculptor, painter, ceramicist, furniture and lighting designer – hey wait – sound familiar? John is working on designs for imaginative  lamps, chairs, and tables that bring a new harmony of art and furnishings into a home.  His goal is functional, vital and stylish furnishings which provide a literal physical interaction/intersection of living + art = living art.

3) Painting – John’s newest medium began about 7 years. True story – all the paintings at his first show sold. Great encouragement indeed, John is freely exploring this medium and finds it compliments his sculpture work in particular.

Chrissy and I wondered “What is next?”.  John spoke of his love for Hawaii, his wife/best friend Karin, their two children and ART. As a man, artist, father and citizen the importance of art to culture and lifestyle is essential. Actively engaged in paying it forward, a metaphorical Jedi* in our Hawaii Art circles, John quietly operates as a catalyst and a consummate networker in promoting the Arts in education, our community and further abroad.  We left appreciating his mission and his commitments to family, art and aloha – all he emphatically believes encourage understanding, diversity and tolerance – values he/we embrace here in the islands. Because John is a man of deeds more than words, let me end our post with these three quotes -not Koga words – Yoda words – but same-same:)

“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” – Yoda

You will find only what you bring in.” – Yoda

*From Wikipedia – The Jedi Order mostly consists of polymaths: teachers, philosophers, scientists, engineers, physicians, diplomats and warriors, who value knowledge and wisdom above nationality. By serving others, the Jedi give of themselves through acts of charity, citizenship, and volunteerism

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ars café – a diamond near diamond head

Ars Café is a purveyor of coffee, tea, gelato, and food complemented by art and ambiance. I learned all that after experiencing THE best expresso I have had this side of Italy. Just a single thimble of their signature expresso reflects the high quality and thoughtfulness of everything Ars represents.

Residing at the heart of this café is the gorgeous Koa wood accented custom expresso machine; this coffee maker is a piece of art in itself. Poised on top of the expresso machine and at the ready are the handcrafted mugs. Follow the length of the coffee counter and there wait the bakery and gelato cases. Stop! Chocolate gelato! My reputation as a dessert first girl is well deserved because at this point, I add a scoop to my existing order of coffee and exquisite avocado toast. No ordinary gelato, it is house made, from scratch, with organic ingredients and nothing artificial. Note for my fellow affogato fans – it’s on the menu but the quality of the expresso and the quality of the gelato are best experienced individually.

What else about Ars is distinctive? The ambiance. From monthly rotating art shows, presence of a turntable, tasteful spare decor and the absence of WiFi, Ars patrons respond to the intentional environment. We collectively chat, pay attention to what album is playing, to the art on the walls. On my last visit, blues legend B.B. King was playing. The fact that I recall that means something to me. Here at Ars, I hear and most importantly listen with enjoyment.

For these reasons, it’s the café I recommend to those who appreciate finer things. These aficionados are a diverse collection of islanders and vacationers – artists, coffee connoisseurs, foodies, hipsters, runners, walkers and generally just an all-around appreciative crowd.

Ars Cafe
3116 Monsarrat Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

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