Aloha and happy holidays to you and your loved ones!
It’s been nearly two years since I returned to Honolulu as director of the institution where I spent much of my childhood. At the time of my start, I outlined three major objectives that I felt the museum needed to concentrate on over the next 10 years:
1) Stay relevant to the needs and desires of the people of Hawai‘i by using contemporary and local art to help address current issues people are interested in.
2) Develop our museum to be financially and operationally sustainable far into the future.
3) Promote our museum nationally and internationally so more people want to visit from around the world.
I am happy to report that we’ve made significant progress on each of these objectives, thanks to efforts of our dedicated museum staff and loyal supporters.
In order for our work to be relevant, we’ve re-crafted the mission of the museum to place Hawai‘i artists at the center of our activities and address contemporary issues in our programming. The exhibition Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West featured local artists such as Satoru Abe and Harry Tsuchidana alongside masters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko to demonstrate the importance Hawai‘i artists played in the global abstract art movement. In early 2019, we will feature O‘ahu artist Kapulani Landgraf in one of our main galleries in partnership with the Honolulu Biennial’s focus on art from the Pacific. Healoha Johnston, our Curator of Arts of Hawai‘i, was named Director of Curatorial Affairs and now runs our strategy for exhibitions and collections. She is working with her colleagues on creating more interactive and engaging galleries than ever before!
In terms of sustainability, we’ve embarked on a multi-year plan leading up to our centennial in 2027. We’re working to ensure that our museum activity matches our staff capacity. At the same time, we changed our admission pricing so that we can increase revenue from tourism while giving our local visitors a 50 percent reduced kama‘aina rate for the first time. We also secured the release of a $2.2 million Grant-In-Aid reimbursement from the State of Hawai‘i for our new museum addition, and we raised more in donations this year (over $5M) than in recent memory. Hoorah!
Successfully elevating our international profile, two blockbuster shows curated by HoMA—Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West and Ho‘oulu Hawai‘i: the King Kalakaua Era—garnered extensive international press and accolades in national newspapers and magazines. The traveling show, Across the Ocean: Hawaiian Quilts from the Honolulu Museum of Art, won the hearts of the residents and visitors of Chigasaki, Japan. While promoting our work to a wider world will always be challenging, it’s a worthy effort that will increase our global attendance and advance Hawai‘i’s image internationally.
As we start 2019, I am confident the foundation developed over the past two years will enable us to serve you better and more efficiently. Our great offerings of art from Hawai‘i and the Pacific region, focus on the contemporary world, and interactive exhibitions will hopefully engage you and demonstrate that the Honolulu Museum of Art is an essential part of our community’s future!
Mahalo nui loa and see you at a museum event soon,
Sean O’Harrow, Ph.D.