A struggling state of the arts in hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

A struggling state of the arts in hawaii

Jerm Dulatre Jerm Dulatre
Allison Wong Allison Wong

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fine arts community in Hawaii has to be even more creative these days, not with their craft, but with their bottom lines. The arts community is struggling to fill seats, find donors, and withstand tough financial times.

Jerm Dulatre visits the Contemporary Museum in Makiki every weekend. "I like to think of it as my second home," Dulatre says. He's the kind of patron museums hope for - a silver circle, thousand-dollar donor.

"I can come here, visit the art. Every couple months, they change it. It's like it's just for me."

But private and corporate donors are harder to come by during lean times, and the fine arts are often the first casualties of declining contributions. That's why the contemporary museum operates with half the staff it did two years ago - when it laid off about two dozen employees.

Museum interim director Allison Wong says, "We reduced the budget from three-and-a-half million to 1.6. But with that said, our programs and our offerings are still quality and continue to be dynamic."

At the Contemporary and elsewhere, it's not just meeting the bottom like these days, but being savvy enough to think outside the box with fundraising.

Honolulu's Academy of Arts sponsors a popular 'Art after Dark' program - hoping to attract a younger crowd to the museum. Last month's program garnered more than 100 new members. But, gone are the days of large, traveling exhibits. Now, the museum is turning towards its own vault for inspiration.

"We're doing what we call 'basement archaeology'," says interim director Lynne Johnson, "which means we go into our basement and see what we have. Well, we have a fabulous treasure trove!"

Ballet Hawaii is also thinking on its feet - staging performances at venues with lower overhead costs. And the Honolulu Symphony is trying to face the music after filing chapter-11 bankruptcy last year. It hopes to return to the stage, but that means less performances and deeper pay cuts for musicians.

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