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ʻIwa Arts & Café: Culinary Simplicity & Artistic Opportunities

September 19, 2018, 11:15 AM HST (Updated September 19, 2018, 9:27 AM)
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ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

Imagine a creative sanctuary, a welcoming space to get cozy, sip coffee and catch up with friends.

This is ʻIwa Arts & Café in Kealakekua. Part restaurant, art gallery and garden, this quaint, comfortable haven brings community together to enjoy wholesome, local foods and relax in a positive, beautiful environment.

ʻIwa owner Anne Catlin was determined to create an enriching and creative experience that goes beyond the traditional corner coffee shop. An artist herself, Catlin infused her creative skills into every corner of the café.

“I’ve been working in the nonprofit art world in differing roles for almost a decade,” said Catlin. “My husband and I are both artists and we wanted to create a space that supported creativity in a different way. Also, we both like to eat, so we wanted a space that merged our interests.”

In addition to delicious food, ʻIwa brings together artist collaborators to display their work, and hold educational programs to enrich creative opportunities for the community.

Fresh Veggie Wrap at ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

 

“We started with other artist collaborators who had different backgrounds,” explained Catlin. “We want to introduce people to art who might not otherwise be exposed to creativity. Maybe they just wandered in to eat or have coffee, but then see something they might not see otherwise.”

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ʻIwa’s menu is a creative collaborative project as well. Catlin works closely with her chef, Dianne McMillen, to create healthy, sustainable and tasty dishes using mostly local and organic products.

Savory Scone with Egg and Cheese at ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

“Our menu changes often and is responsive to both what’s available seasonally, and by what is inspiring to us,” said Catlin. “We wanted to keep things super simple. We offer a few coffee and food options so we can maintain a balance between what we are offering food-wise and art-wise. Minimal options and quality food. Sometimes the menu options are dependent upon the ingredients available to us, and then we experiment with them. We want to have things that are colorful and healthy. We just have fun with it.”

Avocado Toast with fresh tomatoes and olive oil drizzle at ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

The food is indeed delicious. Fresh avocado toast topped with bright red tomato slices beckons to be consumed. The delicious vegan, nut cheeses are so good, you won’t miss cream cheese one bit. A variety of tasty, fresh baked goods are available to pair with an aromatic rose or lavender latte. Diners can sit inside the quaint, art filled café or enjoy the fresh air the back garden. Everything about ʻIwa Arts & Café is a feast for the senses.

Once fueled up, guests can take some time to appreciate the current art displays, or pick up a paintbrush and take part in one of the many creative opportunities offered at the café.

Toast with almond vegan cheese, tomato, arugula and balsmaic drizzle at ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

“We wanted to create an open canvas and see how it would evolve into a dialogue with the community over time,” said Catlin. “We create opportunities for people to make their own work, by putting out supplies and seeing what they do with them. From ‘Art on the Porch,’ where we set up either a focused activity or miscellaneous creative materials and see what people do with them, to something more technique focused. It’s how we create meaningful experiences for people.”

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Muffin at ʻIwa Arts & Café. PC: Karen Rose

Catlin and the staff at ʻIwa believe everyone is creative in their own unique way and no person is more or less qualified to call themselves an artist. Their philosophy is that all forms of creative expression have value, and by bringing people together, they can encourage their creative expression.

To experience ʻIwa Arts & Café and see upcoming workshops and exhibits, go online.

Iwa Arts & Café is located at 79-7491 Māmalahoa Highway.​

Karen Rose
Karen Rose is a writer and journalist living on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel, arts and entertainment. She never met a food she didn't like—except black licorice.
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