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The Arts of Hawaii State Art Museum

by April Tashiro, staff writer


The Hawai‘i State Art Museum had its much anticipated opening Nov. 3. Several hundred visitors with tickets enjoyed the opening ceremony, a number of events involving the Capitol District, and most of all, the diverse art works of HiSAM.

The museum carries a variety of culturally mixed art works; paintings, photographs, sculptures, crafts, and even stained lass. Many of the pieces were created by local artists. Some of them were created by artists with Hawaiian influences. The 12,000 square-foot galleries of HiSAM are as colorful as Hawai‘i itself.

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Many paintings remind visitors the good old days of Hawai‘i. Lei Sellers captures the time when Aloha Tower was filled with tourists who came by sea, and were greeted by the many lei sellers of Honolulu port. The careful visitors may notice Aloha Tower behind a beautiful Hawaiian woman in this soft colored painting. Similarly, a very precise watercolor painting by Doug Young of Aloha Motors shows one of Honolulu’s major intersections before the Hawai‘i Convention Center was built: a dealership, where many of Hawai‘i’s people bought their first car.

Asian arts include a Japanese ukiyo-e painting done by Masami Taraoka. It is very unusual because it depicts an old time Japanese swordsman, a samurai warrior, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay! It is titled Hanauma Bay Series/Ronin Samurai.


Modern art fills a big portion of the HiSAM collection. The Trap by Ralph Kouchi is an interesting modern art sculpture that won’t let visitors pass by without noticing it. It is a big mousetrap made of stainless steel, which looks as if it could catch a human being. It is tightly locked because it actually works.

In the Diamond Head Gallery, a large oil painting attracts museum goers' eyes. Introducing Ruddy Sputty by Sally French is a cute,catchy oil painting based on her own experience struggling to handle a potato farm that she inherited.

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However, HiSAM’s most important work of art – and its largest – is not in its galleries. It is the building itself. The current No.1 Capitol District Building was built in 1928 to replace the original wooden structure built in 1872. It is a concrete and stucco building in a Spanish-mission style, featuring cast stone detail, iron grillwork, and ornamental light fixtures. It was designed by two local architects, Walker Emory and Marshal Webb, and San Diego architect, Lincoln Rogers. Over the years, the building went through several remodelings for mainly functional reasons as its owners changed, but it preserved its open and airy structure, classic looks, and beauty.

The Hawai‘i State Art Museum is on South Hotel Street, and only a few blocks away from HPU’s downtown campus. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays, Mondays, and all state and federal holidays. Admission is free.



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