“I remember going to the museum for the first time while I was in elementary school for a program that showcased the art of different countries and cultures from around the world. I remember being able to touch and look up close at the pieces in the collection. I decided then that I liked museums,” says Kitty Wo, the new chair of the board of trustees.
Today that inquisitive elementary school student has been a HoMA trustee for seven years, and comes to her new position with a lifelong appreciation for art instilled by her parents, Maurice and Joanna Sullivan, who were also generous supporters of the museum. “Both were avid collectors and we lived with art in our home,” says Wo. “My mother collected Chinese art, and I believe it is primarily through her that I have always had a fondness for the museum, its diverse collections, and its iconic buildings and grounds. I feel very much at home when I am at the museum.”
One of Hawai‘iʻs leading philanthropists (she has served on non-profit boards for almost 30 years) and a champion of volunteerism (she received St. Francis Healthcare System’s St. Francis of Assisi Spirit Award last year), she feels compelled to serve on the HoMA board “because we are in a critical time of transition.” As the museum searches for its next director, Wo hopes to “bring the board and community together in support of this wonderful arts institution that is beloved and inspires so many. While a clear mission, strategies and priorities are critical to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, success only comes when teams of people collaborate and support each other working together toward the same goals. I hope to create the conditions for that to happen.”
She answered additional questions for the HoMA blog:
Do you have a favorite work in the collection?
KW: I probably enjoy visiting the Chinese Courtyard and my mother’s snuff bottles in the Maurice J. Sullivan Family Gallery of Chinese Art most of all. It is where I am reminded of my parents and feel connected to them. Beyond that, I can’t say I have a favorite work or gallery. It is in the diversity of offerings and the ever-changing exhibitions that I am visually stimulated and emotionally inspired. What I most enjoy about HoMA is that there is always something new to take away and appreciate.
Do you collect art?
KW: I collect the work of Hawai‘i artists, and while it isn’t a large collection I have enjoyed getting to know the artists themselves, many of whom I consider friends. I enjoy collecting art in a variety of media, from oil to watercolor, mixed media, glass and ceramic. I want to support our local community and talented artist here in Hawai‘i.
What is your vision for the museum moving forward?
I don’t have a particular vision for the museum in that I feel the vision needs to come from many and not one. I would never want the vision to be tied to me, but rather to the Board, our staff, the arts community and our Hawai‘i community at large. That is not to say that I don’t have aspirations to help move the museum forward so that we may all see it reach its greatest potential.