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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

State 'People's Museum' still in flux

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

It would be fair to say 2002 has been a year of transition for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Ronald Yamakawa said he must learn to balance what he wants to accomplish with what he has to.
In February, the state's arts agency fired its executive director, David Farmer, who came under a state Ethics Commission investigation.

But by fall, the state foundation achieved what it had worked for from the start by opening a "People's Museum," dedicated to presenting the work of Hawai'i artists.

As the year wraps up, the foundation has a new beginning of sorts under the leadership of Ronald Yamakawa, a longtime foundation employee who is the new executive director.

Yamakawa, who has served as manager of the Art in Public Places Program since 1989 and interim executive director since Farmer was fired, becomes the foundation's sixth leader since it was formed by Legislature 37 years ago to simulate, guide and promote culture and the arts, history and humanities throughout Hawai'i.

Yamakawa said he must learn to balance what he wants to accomplish with what he has to.

His first task is one with lots of paperwork: a five-year strategic plan required to get federal money from the National Endowment for the Arts.

His long-term goal is deeper but just as political: to preserve and perpetuate Native Hawaiian art and find out where the foundation can be of benefit to Native Hawaiians.

Basically, Yamakawa said, he wants to better serve the public, which may include reorganizing resources, creating partnerships with nonprofit organizations and looking for more sources of money to sponsor projects.

Money has been scarce, and it's clear that the state doesn't have a lot of cash to send their way, he said, so a major challenge will be figuring out how to do more with less.

"I feel real good about the morale over here, and for the most part, people are willing to work together and do what we're here for," he said. "We have a very dedicated professional staff that are experienced and knowledgeable and have done great things out in the field. I'd like to see that continue."