There’s a reason art is a big part of Hawaii’s 60 years of statehood

There’s a reason art is a big part of Hawaii’s 60 years of statehood

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Statehood Day is this Friday in Hawaii.

In the 60 years since statehood, Hawaii has undeniably changed due to demographic shifts and extensive development.

And its entrance into the union is still controversial, as seen in recent sovereignty movement protests by Native Hawaiians.

Over the decades, Hawaii’s journey since statehood has been well told in art.

And there’s a reason for that.

In 1967, the state Legislature established the Art in Public Places Program.

It was the first such program in the nation, and it included a steady stream of funding. To this day, 1% of the construction costs of new state buildings go to art.

Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.
Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.

The program meant that even during Hawaii’s earliest days as a state, there was government money available to fund artists.

Now the state’s Art in Public Places catalog lists more than 6,000 pieces, with notable works such as Satoru Abe’s “Volcano” sculpture in front of Aloha Stadium and "The Spirit of Liliuokalani” at the Hawaii State Capitol.

To pay tribute to works like these, the Honolulu Museum of Art is hosting a tour called “60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii.”

Docent Lynn Hiyakumoto leads art discussion at HoMA.
Docent Lynn Hiyakumoto leads art discussion at HoMA.

Docent Lynn Hiyakumoto leads the tour, kicking it off with an explanation of the Art in Public Places Program. She said the program is something to be proud of about Hawaii.

“I think for me, I always took it for granted,” Hiyakumoto said.

Her tour starts with showing visitors some of the more famous Hawaii artist, such as Abe and Isami Doi, but she also shows guest a more controversial side of the state’s art history.

Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.
Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.

She points out a large piece that at first glance looks like a traditional Hawaiian Kapa work, then she surprises her tour guests when asking them to take a closer look.

“This piece I didn’t really realize was political,” Hiyakumoto said as the group examined the Keith Tallet work called “Mauna Kea Snowchains.”

“For the artist, vehicle tires carrying cultural practitioners, protesters, astronomers, police teams and construction crews to the mountain are printing a contemporary record of land use on the island,” Hiyakumoto said.

Tallet’s art is a reference point to the ongoing conflict on Mauna Kea.

Most recently protesters have been blocking the access road to the summit, and have vowed to remain there until plans to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the mountain are halted.

Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.
Art featured in HoMA's "60 Years of Statehood through the Art of Hawaii" tour.

Hiyakumoto said while art is often in the eye of the beholder, there’s no disputing the value of a publicly-funded art program.

“Now I really look and see what quality art we have, how fortunate we are to have this art here,” she said.

Her next tour is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (Meet at the front entrance of HoMA).

Admission to HoMA is $20, or $10 for kama’aina, and free for members. Kids under 18 are always free.

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