East Hawaii Cultural Center

East Hawaii Cultural Center - Explore the Arts and Culture of the Hilo Community
The Bottom Line:

If you are looking for a down-to-earth peek into the culture of Hilo, stop at the East Hawaii Cultural Center. There is no commercial influence here, just art that's featured in an 1817 concrete reinforced police station. 

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

When going on vacation, it’s intriguing to take the time to learn more about the culture, art, and history of the place you’re visiting. It helps you feel more connected to the area and gives you additional insight. Hilo is such a fascinating location and the East Hawaii Cultural Center offers a peek at the local culture.

The East Hawaii Cultural Center is located across from Kalakaua Park. While you are in the area, spend some time enjoying the plants and sculptures available for viewing in the park. The park includes a statue of King Kalakaua, a sundial, and a WWII memorial. The cultural center is located in the Old Police Station of Downtown Hilo This concrete reinforced building was built in 1817 and has wooden interior walls. Volunteers mainly run the center, which is a non-profit organization. It has been supporting culture and the arts in Hilo for more than 50 years. 

Many locals utilize the center for things like the Youth Art Series, exhibitions from local and international artists, and theater performances. Visitors are invited to browse the gallery. The collection on display regularly changes.

Here are a few examples of past exhibitions in the gallery:

  • Korean calligraphy
  • A light and glass show by Cathy Cunningham-Little
  • Quilt show
  • Young at Art in March
  • “Grief” by Douglas Diaz
  • Kilo I Ka Moo

In addition, you can watch for upcoming events in the theater. In the past, guests have been invited to learn about a Japanese Tea Ceremony. There have also been performances such as Our Town, Way West of Broadway, Biloxi Blues, and A Christmas Cabaret

Locals enjoy taking art classes at the cultural center. There are beginning painting classes, Art Lab for youth ages 10-17, papermaking classes, 3D printing and printmaking, mug decorating, wheel throwing, ceramics, and more. The ceramics studio sits behind the main building. Classes for both children and adults from beginner to advanced levels are offered. There are several potters’ wheels and a large kiln in the space. Sessions are available in 8-week segments. 

Gamelan of the Molten Blossom is another interesting offering at the East Hawaii Cultural Center. The Javanese gamelan is a musical tradition from Indonesia. It features bronze gongs and metallophones. Beginners can take free classes, which are offered several days a week. 

For visitors to Hilo, the two main attractions are the aforementioned gallery and the gift shop. The gift shop is called SPACE and it is a place for local artists to display their work. Visitors are invited to come and support local artists. These souvenirs or gifts are a great way to bring a piece of the islands home with you with no commercial influence.

Insider Tips:
-Gallery hours vary depending on the exhibition. Be sure to check the hours before you go.
-If you’re interested in checking out SPACE, current hours are by appointment only.