At the end of last year, Mark Chavez and his fiancé packed up their bags and moved far, far away from Montana—to Honolulu, to be exact, for her new job. Since Chavez was a licensed massage therapist in Montana, he started looking for a local nonprofit job that aligned with his interest in arts and culture. (“Its kind of hard to commute all the way to Montana to massage.”) He stumbled upon the development associate position here at the Honolulu Museum of Art and since February, he’s been the guy making sure folks are happy with their membership.
His favorite part about working at the museum is the myriad of ways kids can connect with art. “It’s really amazing to facilitate that and be a part of it when I get the chance to—and just seeing the creativity it brings out in little kids,” he says. He loves coming down from the administrative offices and to see kids staring up at the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture at the base of the stairwell. “They’re all just staring and finding all these little things and it’s really cool to see that.”
But Chihuly isn’t his favorite piece in the museum—that title is reserved for a wooden Guanyin from the 14th century, located Pan-Asian Buddhism Gallery. No, it’s not the museum’s well-known human-sized Guanyin. Chavez’s smaller Guanyin sits in a display case, grabbing her knee and sitting comfortably.
Chavez chose Guanyin because his fiancé was given a small jade Guanyin from her grandmother in Peru. “She always loved the piece and we actually didn’t know it was Guanyin until recently when we moved here and found out that it was the feminine Buddhist energy,” he says. “My fiancé works for a women’s empowerment organization so that was a really synchronistic thing.” Chavez also discovered another connection to Guanyin. “Come to find out that we actually ended up moving in next door to the Guanyin temple in Chinatown, so it’s all just been a really synchronistic presence in my life since I came to Hawai’i.”
As for choosing the lesser known Guanyin? “This one’s always overshadowed and my inner punk feels like I need to go with the less popular one.”
Chinam Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), 14th century
Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1927