New Art Academy Scholarship Honors Honolulu Painter - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New Art Academy Scholarship Honors Honolulu Painter

Henrietta Whitcomb Henrietta Whitcomb
Violette Wong Hu Violette Wong Hu

By Diane Ako

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Honolulu Academy of Art will soon offer the Violette Wong Hu Endowment & Prize. For nearly a century, Hu has been painting. "As long as I can remember. Even in school days. I always did like it," she recalls.

She's produced thousands of paintings: from Asian themes, to Hawaiian scenes inspired by the view from her own apartment! "I like colorful things like pictures, anything colorful I like," smiles Hu.

At 96 years of age, Hu is still painting. At first she liked to paint realistic scenes but now she likes to paint abstracts.

Hu is an amateur with a celebrity pedigree. "My whole family likes to paint," she explains, while describing how her mother is the famous Popo Wong, known as the Grandma Moses of Hawaii. Cousin in law Hon Chew Hee (in the Academy's collection) founded the Hawaii Watercolor Society. In 1986 the state legislature honored him as Artist of the Year.

Now Hu gets her due. Her children and grandchildren established a new award at the Honolulu Academy of Arts under her name. Daughter Henrietta Whitcomb says, "The award should go to somebody who's an amateur artist in Hawaii who is working very hard; maybe to be recognized, but mainly because they enjoy doing it for themselves, which is what mom did."

Whitcomb, herself a hobbyist painter, hopes the award will fill a category not recognized before. "When you're enjoying it for yourself and not trying to sell, necessarily, there's a lot that comes out that's different and freeing."

Hu says she's flattered if she can inspire people to put their heart and soul into their art. By the way, Hu turns 97 on June 25.

The first annual prize will be given in May or June. According to Academy staffer Lori Admiral, "There isn't much information available yet about this endowment. To be eligible, the artist will need to be selected for the Artists of Hawaii show. The curatorial staff and Artists of Hawaii juror will then select winners for this award, as well as others that we offer from the show. For that reason, there aren't any 'applicants'. The award are selected shortly after the juror makes his selections and the art is up in the gallery - usually before the show opens to the general public."

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