My first vacation to Hawaii was in the planning stages at the time and my excitement increased, with the awareness that in addition to the beautiful beaches there were interesting things going on in the Islands. We were not disappointed. In fact, in our moments away from viewing glorious sights and relaxing on the sand, my wife and I found lively cultural developments as well as a new awareness of the importance of cooperative efforts and a professional approach to development.
Interestingly, a negative occurrence, a giant cut in legislative funding for the grants program and administration of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts–71 percent over the past five years–forced many of the Island’s cultural groups into more entrepreneurial development activities and the lessons learned during lean times have not been forgotten. A number of Hawaiian groups, for example, have forged an ongoing partnership with Honolulu’s Halekulani Hotel. The Hotel, which notes in a flier that it is “committed to supporting the arts in Honolulu,” not only provides sponsorships, but also makes performances by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and visits to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Contemporary Museum, available to its guests without charge. Arts groups, also, are developing interesting relationships with each other. A partnership between the Wagner Society and the Hawaii Opera Theatre resulted in the first-ever performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in Hawaii this past January.
Among the most exciting developments in the Islands has been the surge of interest in its history and culture. The town of Laihana on Maui, the first capital of Hawaii, is the site for several serious programs, each designed to recapture a different era in the community’s history. Since 1962, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation has been restoring and maintaining historic properties from Lahaina’s 1893-1940 plantation era. On a $550,000 budget, helped by income from its parking lot and from rentals from properties that it owns and leases, the Foundation has been able to operate four museums in houses that it has restored, organize walking tours of historic sites and help to organize other groups who focus on different periods in the community’s rich history. This year, the Foundation plans to open a museum on the second floor of the historic local courthouse.
Focusing specifically on what is known as the pre-contact era–the period before Captain Cook arrived in the Islands in 1778–another group, the Friends of Moku’ula, began as a grass roots operation. With the help of the Restoration Foundation, and the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, which through its employees program helped support it initially, Friends won its non-profit incorporation status in 1995 with goals that included restoring, preserving and protecting historically significant sites, especially the ancient Mokuhinia ponds and Moku’ula, the Hawaiian island at Lahaina, the site of the residences and mausoleums of the Hawaiian kingdom. The program has grown tremendously since its beginnings, winning support from the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Office of Hawaiian affairs and the Administration for Native Americans.
Thanks to a grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for consulting help to develop a business plan, Friends is making progress on an ambitious project to develop a new Hawaiian Living Center, an interactive site where visitors as well as local residents will be able to experience the traditions and learn the history of Hawaii in the pre-contact era. With two of the project’s three phases completed, Friends hopes to raise $8 million to $10 million in a capital campaign set to begin in 2001, with groundbreaking set hopefully for 2003. To boost the campaign, a membership program was launched last year supplemented by a range of special events, including a luau and concert that raised $20,000 and Moku’ula Day at Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company Restaurant, which resulted in a gift of $12,000 from the restaurant, through its donation of 50 percent of the day’s sales to Friends. With its goal of preserving Hawaiian history and traditions and with a board and staff nearly all of whom are native Hawaiians, Friends has se t it sights on targeting successful native Hawaiians for major funding support.
In addition to historic programs focusing on Hawaii’s rich past, the arts in Laihana also have a contemporary thrust. Thanks to the support of local business, who founded the Lahaiana Town Action Committee, regular arts events presented by the Committee draw thousands of visitors to Lahaiana. From income derived from these events, about $30,000 annually goes back to local non-profit organizations.
On the other side of Maui, visitors and locals are drawn to a more modern cultural amenity, the Maui Arts and Culture Center, a $32 million edifice which opened in 1994. With a budget of just over $3 million, the Center presents a wide range of cultural programs featuring local arts as well as established international groups and artists. Offered through the presenting program it initiated last year, were such attractions as the Tokyo String Quartet, pianists Misha and Cipa Dichter and the Kingston Trio. The Center, with about 15 percent of its audience tourists, has set its mark on reaching the local community through its arts events as well as through an ongoing education program that includes among its audience, mainland retirees. In a new phase of its long range plan, the Center has raised $2.4 million for facility additions in recent years and in its next phase it hopes to raise over $6 million in five to seven years to boost its $2.4 million endowment. Among its funding activities, the Center has raised well over $100,000 from the sale of paved stones, embedded with donor names, placed on its walkways.
Nearby in Maui is the small but fascinating Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, which focuses specifically on a linchpin of the Hawaiian economy–the sugar industry. Founded in 1962, the museum was a gift to the community by Alexander & Baldwin Inc. to mark the centennial of one of the company’s key divisions, the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. Sitting across the road from the HC&S factory, the museum, in a renovated plantation house that includes scale models of sugar factory machinery and artifacts, dating back to 1878, faces a new challenge. With most of its income derived from admissions and gift shop sales, supplemented by grants from the Alexander & Baldwin Foundation and other sources, its board now faces the task of seriously addressing a need for developing an aggressive fund-raising program.
At a growing cultural institution in one of the big island of Hawaii’s most visited tourist sites, an aggressive development program has been in place in recent years. The Volcano Art Center (VAC) was founded in 1974 in the former guest quarters of the 1877 Volcano House, on the rim of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano near the Hawaii National Park Visitors Center. It realizes its mission to promote, develop and perpetuate the cultural heritage of Hawaii’s people and their environment through a diverse program of classes, workshops, concerts and exhibits with many art shows featuring the work of over 300 member artists, who display and sell their work at the VAC Gallery. Among the Art Center’s major offerings is its Na Mea Hawaii Programs, a winner of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s annual statewide Kahili Awards for its outstanding promotion of local culture.
The Center, which draws most of the funding for its budget of nearly $2 million from Gallery sales and events, supplemented by funding from government agencies, foundations and individuals, also is host to a famed funding event, the Kilauea Volcano Wilderness Runs, which celebrates its 18th annual program on July 29th. The series of runs, including a wilderness marathon, is the only major running event of its kind in a national park, and attracts nearly a thousand runners from all over the world. Last year, when the event netted $15,000, it received significant funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to promote it nationally and internationally.