Donor pulls funding for UH arts programs after Trump protest

Published: Nov. 22, 2016 at 2:07 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2016 at 3:13 PM HST
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Mark Blackburn (Image: Blackburn)
Mark Blackburn (Image: Blackburn)
Dan Meisenzahl, UH spokesperson (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Dan Meisenzahl, UH spokesperson (Image: Hawaii News Now)

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A donor has pulled funds supporting art students at the University of Hawaii after the art department's chairwoman organized a sign-painting party on Facebook to protest President-elect Donald Trump.

Donor Mark Blackburn, a Trump supporter, said he was outraged after he discovered department chairwoman Gaye Chan put together the gathering on campus two days after the general election.

"How would it make you feel if you wrote all these checks and you went out of your way to champion these students and champion this department and this is the way you're respected?" Blackburn said, adding that he believes Chan abused her power as chair and violated the university's ethics policy.

"It was basically a call to arms asking students to come to the art department to makes signs for this protest."

The Nov. 11 protest near Ala Moana Beach Park was one of hundreds nationwide. In the wake of Blackburn's decision, Chan has defended her actions -- and so has the university.

"This faculty member did nothing wrong," said Dan Meisenzahl, UH spokesman. "They used common area for this sign making event and UH absolutely supports everyone's freedom of speech. UH is really grateful for the support Blackburn gave over the years."

Blackburn said if the university took his concerns more seriously, he would reconsider his actions.

Over the last two years, Blackburn helped financially support artists coming out of Manoa.

In 2015, he opened Gallery HNL in Honolulu, which showcased their work to a broader audience. And he estimates he invested at least $40,000 in scholarships and programs for art students at the university over the last couple years.

"I put a lot of time, effort and money in this," Blackburn said.

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