On Oahu, a new art exhibition gives you a look at Hawaii's balancing act of past and present

On Oahu, a new art exhibition gives you a look at Hawaii's balancing act of past and present
An outdoor sculpture garden at the Hawaii State Art Museum surrounds what was once a swimming pool used by sailors and soldiers staying in the building, which used to be a YMCA. A new exhibition there examines Hawaii's past and present. (David Franzen)

After you've been to the beach and walked through Waikiki, what are your options for free attractions on Oahu?

One often-overlooked spot is the Hawaii State Art Museum, which is not only free but also has a new exhibition opening in September that addresses, through art, some of the issues the state grapples with.


"Hawaii: Change & Continuity" is set to open Sept. 4 and will feature works by more than 130 artists, all Hawaii residents.

The pieces — a collection that includes ceramics, paintings and weavings — share the archipelago's evolution, from the volcanoes that created the islands to the arrival of Polynesian voyagers to the modern-day melting pot of diverse cultures.

"We're constantly in this flux," curator Tom Klobe told me. "We felt there was something important to say about this desire for change, but with a respect for our past — our history, our legends, our myths."

In assembling the exhibit, Kolbe pored over many of the 6,000 works of art owned by the museum's parent, the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.

Foundation representatives routinely visit juried art shows throughout the state looking for worthy pieces to acquire.

The museum is at 250 S. Hotel St., about four miles from the Waikiki resorts. It's just across the street from both the state capitol and Iolani Palace, once the home of Hawaiian royalty.

The art museum is housed in the one-time YMCA, which catered to sailors and soldiers. An outdoor sculpture garden encircles what was once the swimming pool.

Executive Director Jonathan Johnson told me tourists often find the authenticity they seek at the museum.

"They say, 'This is the Hawaii I was looking for," he noted. "That resounds. It's of this place."

Info: Hawaii State Art Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

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