ICYMI: Hawaiʻi: Supporting Native Hawaiians in Public Art

"Public art programs are a powerful strategy that state arts agencies employ to encourage public appreciation of the arts, enliven public space, strengthen community identity, and engage and support artists from all backgrounds," said Declan Wicks for National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. "The Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) has undertaken a series of steps to ensure that its Art in Public Places program—the first statewide percent for art program in the nation—supports the full diversity of Hawaiʻi’s artistic community and acquires works of art expressive of the Hawaiian islands and the multicultural heritages of its people."

Strengthened by the curatorial statement’s findings, SFCA continues to increase the visibility and acquisition of works by Native Hawaiians. the agency undertook a complement of strategies, including:

  • inculcating an agency culture dedicated to community work and engagement;
  • hiring Kānaka artists and curators at the Hawai’i State Art Museum to continue to engage with the Native Hawaiian artwork in the APP collection;
  • expanding and diversifying the locations of exhibitions and juried shows from which SFCA acquires artwork;
  • making it easier to invite the APP program’s Acquisition Award Selection Committee to consider works of art for acquisition.

Ultimately, these actions work to break down what SFCA describes as the “arbitrary line” that is historically drawn between traditional and contemporary art—a line that has so often kept Native Hawaiian practitioners from representation in the APP program. A 2022 SFCA report to the state legislature highlighted the recent progress made by the agency and the impact of supporting Native Hawaiians through the APP program: From just 2020-2022, SFCA has increased its percentage of total works by Native Hawaiians from 3.9% to 18.3% and has purchased nearly $1.5 million in Native Hawaiian art.

Learn more here.