After almost two years of planning, lobbying, and giving testimony at the capitol, the museum received good news last month when the state Legislature approved $1.5 million in grants-in-aid funding for the institution.

With the Honolulu Museum of Art School classes selling out in a couple of days, museum school tours at capacity, and schools clamoring to have the museum’s outreach programs work with them (as we do with Queen Ka‘ahumanu Elementary), in 2013 the museum applied for, and received, $120,000 in state Grant-in-Aid funding to study how we can best meet community needs, now and in the future.

Based on ever growing community demand for museum education programs and resources, director Stephan Jost devised a plan to expand the Honolulu Museum of Art School into a sort of superhub of arts education. He envisions a new Art School annex, providing flexible, dynamic, indoor-outdoor spaces—for art, film, theater, and dance—that keep pace with the demand for learning at all ages, as well as a teacher-training classroom, the museum’s art library of 55,000 volumes, and Lending Collection for public school teachers. It could become a place to build relationships—an asset not only for shaping arts education in Hawai‘i, but for building a healthy, creative community.

Grant manager David Washburn has been key in securing the funding and working with legislators. The museum is indebted to Sen. Brian Taniguchi and Rep. Della Au Belatti for leading the effort in the Legislature. Taniguchi introduced SB324, to appropriate “moneys from the general fund to provide a grant for the Honolulu Museum of Art to fund an architecturally significant building project that will include studio classrooms, an art education knowledge center, and parking.”

Tireless education advocate, and museum trustee, Duane Preble led the charge in the community. His fellow trustees Wes Park, Josh Feldman, Jean E. Rolles, Indru Watumull, Cecilia Doo, Elizabeth Grossman, Kelly Sueda, Noreen Mulliken, Ruedi Thoeni, Sharon Twigg-Smith, and Violet Loo all submitted testimony in strong support of the bill.

In February, Jost and a museum team attended a hearing on SB 324, with a cross-section of Honolulu showing up to give testimony.

In addition, written testimony poured in from people of all walks of life and all ages, illustrating how the Honolulu Museum of Art’s education programs have played important roles in individuals’ lives and the community for decades. Architect John Hara wrote, “My great and life-long love of art started at what was then the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which had embarked on creating a comprehensive outreach program of teaching art to all the children of the Territory of Hawai‘i, whatever their ethnic or social class background might be.”

The museum is grateful for the thoughtful, personal, insightful letters from students and parents of students like Cheryl Palakiko, Lynn Yoshioka, and Catherine Hall (who has enjoyed her Art School classes so much she is training to become a docent); docents such as Edith Runner, Allison Roscoe, Pamela Honbo, and Carol Root, among many others (they wrote some of the most passionate letters); educators like Fae Yamaguchi, Gladys de Barcza, and Amanda Lei Perron; artists such as Deborah Nehmad, Lauren Okano and Jackie Mild Lau; and all-around longtime museum friends such as architect John Hara and attorney David Simons.

Perhaps Rev. Pamela Redding said it best in her testimonial letter when she wrote:

“The Art School is important to me because it embodies my sense of community, and community identity is at the heart of what all peoples of Hawai‘i hold dear as a core value. As people testify in support of SB 324, you will hear many quantitative values, lots of totals of classes and individual children and adults served and successful programs. I spend a lot of time at the school myself and I can testify that the evidence is in that all of this is true.

But the reason I support the use of public funds to expand the facility is far more personal. The Honolulu Museum of Art School is in every way committed to nurturing the qualitative life that can only happen when people of every age and experience are brought together in an atmosphere where they are wanted, where people care. The Art School surrounds everyone who enters with safety—creative safety, emotional and spiritual safety and of course, physical safety. It is a place my children and my friends and I come to grow and to learn, but most of all feel they belong. It is not unusual to hear that this place has changed someone’s life. Investing in a facility where there is more room for the many programs and interests of people diverse in every way is an investment in the Hawai‘i of the future. Honolulu Museum Art School is a place where people come to know each other and value not only the gifts they already possess but also what we can become—together.”

Gosh, we tear up when we read that. A heartfelt mahalo nui loa to our community for helping us keep serving the community—it’s one great cycle of giving.

The bill asked for $16 million to complete the full Knowledge Center plan at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. The approved $1.5 million is a fantastic start, and the museum will keep the public posted as to how it will be applied to this vision for the future.