Mission/History

We are dedicated to showing the best of Hawai'i's fine art masters and contemporary artists of Hawai'i. The Koa Gallery is a catalyst, bringing art and people together. It is a working visual art laboratory for the KCC campus and the community at large, serving as a learning tool and resource for creative excellence.

The Koa Gallery is dedicated to the belief that art is a powerful force, transforming individuals and communities, and encourages creative practice for everyone into daily living.

When the KCC campus began moving from its former location on Kapiolani Boulevard to its location on the slopes of Diamond Head in 1980, the Koa Gallery was born. It is nestled on the first floor of the Koa Building, KCC's art building.

Under the direction of professor and artist David Behlke since 1994, the Koa Gallery has worked to give recognition to and establish a canon of art history for Hawaii. In 1994, the first Koa Award was launched to recognize lifetime achievement in the visual arts and was awarded to ceramicist Lucille Cooper. Since then, the Koa Award has recognized Toshiko Takaezu, Tadashi Sato and Murray Turnbull among others. Inspired by an idea offered by Lucille Cooper, the popular annual Mixed Media Miniature show was launched in 1997. The Gallery turned a major corner in 1998 with the exhibit Avatars of Culture featuring the work of Keichi Kimura and Isami Doi. It was an important exhibit of meticulous research and rare images showing the talent of two of Hawaii's strongest and least known artists in its history.

In 2000, the John Young Foundation committed its support to the gallery which continues to allow the gallery to operate and present shows as a professional gallery in the community.

In 2001, through the generous gifts of gallery supporters, David Behlke was able to expand the gallery space from 600 square feet to 950 square feet.

With increased publicity and recognition from local press, the Koa Gallery shows are reviewed on a regular basis. The Koa Gallery is considered the unofficial crown jewel of KCC, a source of pride and excellence.