The islands of Hawaii are rich in ethnic and cultural diversity. The Hawaiians have many ways of expressing their heritage and revealing their fascinating history including music, dance, and theater. But no avenue of cultural expression is more vivid than the Aloha State's visual arts.
Many artists have been captivated and inspired by Hawaii's breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and natural terrain. Their works can be enjoyed at many of the 97 museums and cultural attractions on the Hawaiian islands. Hawaii's art exhibits often include both classic and contemporary works, all of which illustrate the wonderfully diverse culture of the islands. Depending on which island of Hawaii you are visiting, you can spend some time exploring various art museums, festivals, or exhibits to add a little culture to your island getaway.
Art By Island
Although they share most of the same culture, the Hawaiian islands each have their own unique and distinct characteristics which can be seen in the regional art work. Here are some museums and cultural centers broken down by island:
- Honolulu Academy of Arts -- Along with the gallery's art exhibits, the Honolulu Academy of Arts also features ARTafterDARK. This event is held on the first Friday of every month, except during November and December. Both islanders and visitors are welcomed to enjoy a pau hana, or after work mixer in the art museum. ARTafterDARK is a wonderful combination of art, food, music, and dancing. Along with the regular art exhibits, there are also visual and live performances. These after hour art festivities are theme based. Some past themes include "Plant Rice," which featured various rice dishes, sake-tastings, and Asian beer and music along with the exhibit, the Art of Rice. Other themes were "80s Night," "Turkish Delights," "Cool Nights, Hot Jazz and Blues," and "Havana Heat." The atmosphere is pretty casual, with jeans and tee shirts being quite acceptable attire. Some prefer to dress exquisitely for the occasion, however, wearing designer cocktail party clothing. To find out more about the Honolulu Academy of Arts or ARTafterDARK call 808-532-6091.
- University of Hawaii Art Gallery -- The university's gallery is one of the finest in the nation. Its various exhibits present visual art in both historical and contemporary perspectives. The University of Hawaii Art Gallery has gained renown for featuring exhibits and publications of great quality in content and conception. The effects of the University of Hawaii Art Gallery reach far beyond the Hawaiian islands. Over 100 museums in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and Guam have featured displays from the Art Gallery's 14 traveling exhibits. The University of Hawaii Art Gallery sees about 50,000 guests annually, and admission to the gallery is free. Vacationers can visit the gallery Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information call 808-956-6888.
- John Young Museum of Art -- This museum features work from local painter John Young, primarily focusing on the arts of China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Along with the art exhibits, the museum also has a small reading room with books and donated furnishings. Admission is free, and the museum is open on Tuesday 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 pm, Friday noon until 3:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. To find out more about the John Young Museum of Art call 808-956-3634.
The Big Island
- Volcano Art Center -- This is a hub for art activity on the Big Island. The Volcano Art Center is located at the 1877 Volcano House and features a variety of art exhibits that change monthly. Some of the artists featured at the Volcano Art Center include Mariam Berges, known for her water colors of endangered birds; Dietrich Varez, whose works include oil and block prints; Avi Kiriaty (oils); Kelly Dunn and Jack Straka (woods); Brad Lewis (photography); Harry Wishard (paintings); Ira Ono (goddess masks); and Mikey Riley (furnishings). Of all the artists represented at the Volcano Art Center, 90 percent of them are from the Big Island. To contact the Volcano Art Center call 808-967-8222.
- Maui Art and Cultural Center -- As one of Hawaii's most comprehensive complexes for visual and performing arts, the Maui Art and Cultural Center offers art lovers a sophisticated look at Hawaiian culture. The cultural center recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and is housed in a $32 million (USD) facility. The Maui Art and Cultural Center celebrates the diverse heritage and culture of the Hawaiian islands in various ways, including everything from hula to symphony, paintings to taiko drumming, ballet to children's art, slack key guitar to Chinese acrobats and popular singers, and much more. Admission into the center is free, but there are fees for the programs, performances, and classes. To find out more information on the Maui Art and Cultural Center call 808-242-2787.
- Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center -- Hui No'eau is located in a 1917 plantation mansion and estate, the former home of Hawaii's first family to enter the pineapple industry, Harry and Ethel Baldwin. As a leader in the community, Ethel Baldwin founded the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in 1934. Ever since, the center has attracted artists from all over the world. Hui No'eau now prides itself on providing "creativity through exceptional visual art education." To contact the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center call 808-572-6560.
- Art School at Kapalua -- This is a place that kindles creativity of all kinds with pottery classes, photography, figure drawing, landscape painting, painting on silk, plus performing arts like ballet, yoga, Pilates, and creative movement. This non-profit organization offers classes at very affordable prices. To contact the school call 808-665-0007. Village Galleries -- Local Maui artists, like George Allan, Betty Hay Freeland, Fred KenKnight, and Pamela Andelin, show their works here. The small gallery features exhibits like watercolors, oils, sculptures, handblown glass, Niihau shell leis, jewelry, and much more. To find out more call 808-669-1800.
The western region of the Garden Isle has become somewhat of a refuge for artists. Western Kauai's Hanapepe Road is lined with several galleries including:
- Wood Gallery -- Featuring koa furniture, koa photo albums, and Norfolk pine bowls. Aloha Angels -- Items with an angel theme.
- Kauai Village Galley -- Abstract and surreal paintings by Kauai native Lew Shortridge.
- Kauai Fine Arts -- Offerings include its unique collection of antique maps and prints of Hawaii, authentic Polynesian tapa, rare wiliwili-seed leis, old Matson liner menus, and some contemporary island art.
- Kim Starr Gallery -- Displays Kim Starr's oil paintings, drawings, pastels, and some of her limited edition graphics.
A new celebration of art on Kauai is the Friday Night Art Walk, which takes place every Friday from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
The visual arts have become an important part of portraying Hawaii's culture, history, and natural wonders. While vacationing in this beautiful region of the world, be sure to check out any of the islands' wonderful galleries.