State of the arts
by Kawehi Haug
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
It was seven years ago this year that the Honolulu Academy of Arts launched its after-hours Art After Dark event. The monthly art-centric cocktail party was created to get young people through the museum doors while boosting their knowledge, however covertly (masked with music and good party vibes), of fine art.
With this month's installment of Art After Dark just hours away and the Starlight Ball, AAD's annual fundraiser gala, just a week away, we wanted to check in with the Academy to see how it's faring in these dire economic times. And the news is mostly good.
Over the last year, the Academy, like businesses and organizations everywhere, has been forced to respond to the economic downturn by taking some pretty serious measures, including staff layoffs and budget cuts. Though the Art After Dark program has been affected by the cuts, the diminished staff is working hard to make sure that we on the outside don't feel their pain. The AAD party crew is hanging tough, and it's paying off.
"If you're not one of the people working behind the scenes, you don't realize it," added Lesa Griffith, the Academy's director of communications. "It's amazing to see that all of the bells and whistles of the event have remained as bright and loud, even with fewer hands and less money."
And things haven't just remained the same on the AAD front, they've improved.
According to Denise Nakano, the Academy's associate director of development for special events and programs, last month's Art After Dark event drew 1,701 people — a huge increase from the Feb. 27, 2004, inaugural event, which drew just 260 people — and it continues to grow. The increase in attendance reflects an across-the-board growth at the Academy — at least where public programming and community attendance are concerned.
While the place might be low on hard cash — Nakano said corporate sponsorship has dropped significantly over the past couple of years — it's growing in popularity.
"Visitorship in 2009 was consistently higher than the same month the preceeding year and regular attendance to the museum has definitely increased," said Griffith. "Attendance to our events is growing because people are looking for a bargain to have a good time."
Art After Dark isn't the only party in town. Mark your calendars for these upcoming events at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Tonight: A Camelot-themed Art After Dark (6-9 p.m., $10). Mark the coming of spring with a nod to Cape Cod, sailboats, Top-Siders, touch football, Wayfarers, tousled hair and the mystique of the alluring Kennedy family.
May 1-26: The Doris Duke Theatre is holding the first ever 'Oiwi Film Festival — a festival of films by indigenous Hawaiians. For a list of films and showtimes, visit www.honoluluacademy.org.
May 8: The Starlight Ball (7-11 p.m., $85) is AAD's party of the year. See box, right, for more info.
May 10: Chamber Music Hawaii: The Tresemble (7:30 p.m., $25; $20 Academy members; free for students with ID). The season finale program at Doris Duke Theatre features music by Ravel, Debussy, Mahler and Saint-Saens.
May 13: The museum now stays open late every second Thursday of the month for its "aloHAA" event (5-9 p.m., $10), which was created for art lovers who can't make it to the museum during its regular hours, and who'd rather not deal with the Art After Dark crowds. There's food and drinks too.
May 14: The Doris Duke Theatre at the Academy holds its monthly Friends of Film Friday every second Friday of the month. The event is a film buff's mixer with food and drink and one-time-only screenings of foreign, independent and restored classic films. Next up: "For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism" (6:30 p.m., $8-$15).
May 16: Bank of Hawaii Family Sundays (11 a.m.-5 p.m., free), every third Sunday of the month feature keiki-friendly activities. BOH Sundays attracts more than 1,000 people each month.
June 12: ABC Stores of Hawaii presents "Les Peetz: With and Without Strings" at Doris Duke Theatre (7:30 p.m., $20). No other local jazz artist has so consistently filled the Academy's seats to capacity over the years as has pianist Les "too tall" Peetz. The ensemble will swing with the master on a program that includes standards, classics, and hits from Carl Sandburg's "The American Songbag."
June 23: Real men wear frills. The textile exhibition "Men in Lace" opens in June with a display that's a window into a time when men liked prettier clothes.