Sunday, March 4, 2012

Art @ the Capitol

Confession time:

I've avoided First Friday in downtown Honolulu for at least five years. Why?

  • Too many people
  • Too little parking
  • Drunken people looking for freebies
  • Too hard to see the art and entertainment

But I convinced the DH we should go because the legislators AND the governor and lieutenant governor opened their offices to the public from 5 pm to 7 pm this past Friday, March 2nd.

He was my reluctant companion, but he perked up considerably when he saw the quality and variety of artwork displayed in the offices. A free cup of coffee and some great chamber music by young musicians helped, too.

In Hawaii, one percent of the cost of a new state building goes toward art, per the Art in State Buildings law - the first of its kind in the nation. Works are commissioned and this is overseen by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture & the Arts.

What most people don't know is that there is competition for art between the legislators "for what is available", as a staffer said. Even the gov and lt. gov have picked their own artwork for their offices and reception areas.

Something that impressed us was the variety of taste displayed: from Rep. Karl Rhoads (D) Dist. 28 - restrained and mostly monochromatic prints, to Rep. Henry Aquino (D) Dist. 35 - with more than one painting of sugar mills, to Rep. Tom Brower (D) Dist. 23, whose entire office was full of Mondrian wall cover, primary colors, chrome, Plexiglas and a construction zone desk. Let's not forget Rep. Mark Hashem (D) Dist. 18 who has decorated his office with his own choice of kimono and samurai sword replicas, in addition to prints and watercolors.

OK, we did visit offices of Rep. Gen Ward (R) Dist. 17, who did ask us if we're constituents (we're not). He had artist Kahi Ching talk about the coconut wood sculpture in his office. We also popped into the office of Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R) Dist. 19, where the DH was reluctant to go in until he recognized one of her staff.

Senate President Shan Tsutsui's - (D) Sen. Dist. 4 - reception and office areas wowed us. Let's just say there are FIVE Tadashi Sato works, TWO Toshiko Takaezu ceramics, and MORE. There are too many others we saw to mention them all. We have been to other offices during the legislative session, but have not gotten past reception. This was a unique opportunity to see even the senators' and representatives' private offices.

We spoke at some length with Rep. Mark Takai (D) Dist. 34 and Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D) Sen. Dist. 10, who kindly ushered us in, even though it was after 7 pm and his staffers were starving! Art @ the Capitol was his idea, 4 years ago. As staffers reminded us, "this is YOUR art". And it is.

Here's a video - there are six in all - of Sen. Taniguchi talking about one of the artworks in his office. He asked where we'd heard about Art @ the Capitol. I said I'd seen something about it online. Later, I recalled reading about it in MidWeek. Later still, I remembered a retweet from @jayparasco from @hihousedems . Would've been good if @hawaiisenate had tweeted the event, too!

Mahalo to the legislators who took the time to talk to us, and to show us their favorite paintings, photographs and sculptures. Most of all, thank you to the staffers who greeted us warmly and invited us in.


  1. Art@the Capitol sounds positively divine. What a wonderful idea. It must have been terrific to see all the different art pieces and talk to the legislators about them. My husband loves art. His parents collected. So we have a deep appreciation for this sort of thing. Take care.

  2. Hi, Taryterre! While First Friday happens monthly, Art @ the Capitol is once a year. I'll make sure to attend this event again next year, as it was, indeed, fantastic!