In 1976, I was a second-grade student at Hokulani Elementary School, at the base of St. Louis Heights. As was normal in Hawai‘i public schools at the time, art, music, dance, and theater were part of the curriculum. To further my creative imagination (and keep me busy and out of trouble!), my parents also enrolled me in painting and ceramics classes at the museum. The studio program was a vibrant, integral part of the museum, and directly influenced my present career.

Fast forward more than four decades, and we find ourselves in a very different century. In April, Sen. Mazie Hirono visited Hokulani Elementary School to see how the Honolulu Museum of Art teaches art integration within school curriculum, as part of our Art Seed program. Sen. Hirono observed how students use artwork to illustrate scientific principles. She saw their plasticine models of bug anatomy and drawings of larvae. In this model outreach program, students learn art as part of other subjects that seem, on the face of it, very different.

Now why, you may ask, would an art museum spend time and resources teaching art in schools? It is an investment in the future. The dynamics of our lives today mean that sending children to learn art at museums is not necessarily a given. In three decades of working in arts education, I have seen across the country, primary and secondary schools systematically eliminating many forms of art and creativity from their curriculum. The reasons are various and, in my opinion, difficult to comprehend: from lack of time to funding issues, from lack of expertise to politics.

To create a more informed, curious and creative student population, the museum has been put in the critical position of delivering art history and art-making lessons and skills to teachers and schoolchildren. The objective is to make art a normal part of their daily lives, and make visiting an art museum a natural thing to do. It is heartening to see that HoMA is making a difference in the lives of many students, such as those at Hokulani.

The museum’s education work continues full- steam ahead. Our two grants from the State of Hawai‘i totaling $2.2 million have cleared their last bureaucratic hurdle, and we can start planning the expansion of the museum’s education facilities. A big mahalo to State Sen. Brian Taniguchi, State Rep. Della Au Belatti, their dedicated staff, and other hard-working civil servants, including those in the State of Hawai‘i departments of Labor, Finance and the Governor’s office. This has been a long road and now the project to benefit of our public education programs can begin. We are grateful and appreciative for these grants and all the effort involved.

Thank you for your support for the museum, and if you would like to contribute to such wonderful programs, I actively encourage you to do so! I look forward to seeing you at a museum event soon.


Sean O’Harrow