Art & Design Art & the Artist

Hawaii Life: How Art and Real Estate Are Combining to Make Waves

On Hawaii’s North Shore, one local brokerage is championing local artists and designers in a series of exhibitions

Enter the unique Oahu offices of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers, a firm with a presence on every island in the state of Hawaii, and you’ll notice walls covered with a selection of art and design by the best creatives of the North Shore. “We always want to work with our local community and artists,” says Hawaii Life’s Diana Novoselic Ricciutti. “We want our office to be more than just a place of commerce, we want it to be a community gathering place.”

A surfboard and the ethos of Hawaii Life are displayed on the wall of the brokerage's offices
Hawaii Life’s ethos, displayed here on the wall of its North Shore offices, echoes its approach to art—with a commitment to understanding its surroundings and bringing the community together. Image: Kelly Headrick

To achieve this goal, Novoselic Ricciuti, her colleagues, and members of the local community have created the Haleiwa Art Cooperative, which showcases outstanding local art and design. And the offices of Hawaii Life are the perfect place in which to do just that.

The artists’ skillful designs electrified this place, and beyond, with positive energy—Kyle Bernhardt

“We have this really beautiful white, open space with a lofty ceiling, kind of industrial modern… and this one wall that just goes on forever,” says Novoselic Ricciutti. Now dubbed the “art wall,” this space was used for the art cooperative’s inaugural exhibition earlier this year.

A row of surfboards on display
The brokerage’s “art wall” is the ideal place to display the talent and craft of local designers. Image: Kelly Headrick

Shapes of the North Shore was, in the words of fellow Realtor-Associate and keen boarder and shaper Kyle Bernhardt, “a celebration of the local shapers who are actively making surfboards, and who live between Mokuleia to Laie. These shapers bring a tremendous amount of joy to the surfers who live here and around the world. Their skillful designs electrified this place, and beyond, with positive energy.”

Among the 24 pieces on display, from shortboards to longboards and foilboards, was a showboard by Pat Rawson, a local shaper who has been working in the area since the 1960s. Also included was a replica of the board Bethany Hamilton rode for the movie about her life and the shark attack, where she lost her arm, as well as a board ridden by world champion John John Florence, shaped by Jon Pyzel, his long-time sponsor and friend.

We want our office to be more than just a place of commerce, we want it to be a community gathering place—Diana Novoselic Ricciutti

Novoselic Ricciutti, Bernhardt and the members of the cooperative are now planning a rotating program of exhibitions, highlighting local talent from the worlds of art, design, jewelry, textiles and more. “Our goal is to support the North Shore and our community,” says Novoselic Ricciutti. “We want it to be a place of creativity, where people invite their friends and family to come and see what local artists are doing.”

People at the Shapes of the North Shore exhibition
Held in February, the Shapes of the North Shore exhibition allowed members of the public a chance to view and appreciate the local works, with plans being made for an ongoing series of exhibitions. Image: Kelly Headrick

Meet the shaper/broker, Kyle Bernhardt of Hawaii Life

How did you come to be a Realtor-Associate at Hawaii Life?
I moved to Oahu from San Francisco in March 1999. I bought my first home with the help of my then girlfriend—a licensed agent with a local broker. I then bought another home myself, unlicensed and without an agent. Eventually I thought I should pursue a license and gained it in 2016. Julia Fetzer at Hawaii Life was a long-time friend and I asked her if she would mentor me, she agreed, and we have been working closely together ever since.

How long have you been shaping surfboards and how did you get into it?
I made my first board in 1986 when I was 17. The grass and dog fur in the lamination was a dead giveaway of its birthplace, my mother’s backyard in Sunnyvale, California. Despite its gruff look, apparently it was good enough to land me a full-time position at a local windsurf and surfboard factory. I started on my 18th birthday and I worked full-time shaping, painting, glassing, and sanding boards until 2017 when real estate commanded most of my attention. That said, I love making boards and will never totally give it up.

Kyle Bernhardt and Zachary Wright
Bernhardt pictured with Zackary Wright, Executive Director, Asia Pacific, Christie’s International Real Estate, at the Shapes of the North Shore exhibition. Image: NS Surf Gallery

You spent some time working with artist Damien Hirst—how did that come about and what did you do?
My connection to Damien Hirst was via Maia Norman, [Hirst’s ex-partner]. Maia is friends with Takuji Masuda, who I’ve collaborated with since 2002, on his exclusive surfboard label Typhoon. She invited us to their country home in Devon, U.K., in the summer of 2006. We were there to surf, and for me to make a few boards that would act as runway backdrops for her clothing brand, Mother of Pearl.

Although we all ate dinner together nearly every night, I don’t think Damien spoke to Takuji or me until I showed him a finished board. When he saw the board, Damien exclaimed, “You made that in my shop?” The following three weeks of dinner conversation were relaxed, comfortable, and so much fun! I was treated to tours with Damien and Maia of their various workshops and foundries—mind-blowing art of all varieties: sculptures, paintings, and photos of the then-uncompleted diamond skull. I think my favorites, though, were Hirst’s Mandala series featuring real butterfly wings.

Tranquility by Damien Hirst, shown here on exhibition in London, is made up of thousands of butterfly wings. Bernhardt viewed this body of work in progress during his time in Devon. Image: Alamy

One of your boards was displayed in the Shapes of the North Shore exhibition?
Yes! I contributed a 4.6-foot (1.4 m) full carbon foilboard. I’ve been foiling for about 18 months now and I just can’t get enough of it.

How do you combine your love of surf with your passion for real estate?
By living and representing both buyers and sellers in the best place in the world for surfing.

Banner image: Kelly Headrick