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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

State to open its art museum on Nov. 3

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has set Nov. 3 for the grand opening of the much-anticipated Hawai'i State Art Museum, a $4.9 million project that organizers hope will spark a revitalization of Honolulu's Capitol District.

Mona Abadir, chairwoman of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, displays a model of the Hawai'i State Art Museum, which will open on Hotel Street.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The museum is in the No. 1 Capitol District Building, formerly the Armed Forces YMCA and also known as the Hemmeter Building.

The inaugural exhibition, "Enriched by Diversity: The Art of Hawai'i," will comprise 360 works by 284 local artists.

Organizers held a news conference yesterday to announce the opening and to share a peek at the galleries, which are still under construction.

The museum has more than 12,000 square feet of space spread out over three galleries.

The Diamond Head Gallery is the largest at 6,200 square feet and will feature new acquisitions and thematic shows from the State Art Collection and State Foundation on Culture and the Arts programs.

The 4,000-square-foot 'Ewa Gallery will hold a semi-permanent exhibition of 150 works documenting Hawai'i's visual arts history since statehood.

The Sculpture Gallery and Lobby accounts for another 2,000 square feet. All are located on the second floor, where ceilings are highest.

The state foundation's chairwoman, Mona Abadir, said Phase II of the project, tentatively scheduled for the end of 2003, will include renovation of the first floor to include a cafe, gift shop, educational rooms and an employee orientation room. A third phase, including construction of a performance and lecture area, is planned, though no dates have been established.

Abadir said the museum could play a role in revitalizing the Capitol District, much as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art became a cultural hub for its city.

"We've seen how art can really reinvigorate a community and become a thrust of its economic development," Abadir said.

To that end, Abadir said, the museum could also help to position Hawai'i to take advantage of the growing interest in cultural tourism.

"The one thing we hear from visitors is that they all want more access to multicultural experience," she said. "I think we can play an important part in sharing our unique cultural resources

The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts maintains a collection of about 5,000 pieces acquired over the last 35 years.

Lisa Yoshihara, curator of the foundation's Art in Public Places Program, said pieces for the inaugural exhibit were selected to show the diversity of artistic work in Hawai'i.

"We wanted to represent the key works of key artists across all media," Yoshihara said. "We wanted to tell a story of art in Hawai'i"

Organizers have planned a daylong festival to mark the opening. The festival will encompass much of the downtown area, with trolleys providing service between the Honolulu Academy of Arts and Washington Place, and from the Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center to the Mission Houses Museum.