JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fine-art photographer Yuri Farrant, left, talked yesterday with David and Micky Smith, right, of Danville, Calif., after the Smiths' purchased of one of Farrant's prints at the Art Wall along Monsarrat Avenue in Waikiki.
Dispute endangers zoo fence art show
A group wants a ban on artists and other commercial activities at Kapiolani Park
With silk as his canvas, Waituck Lo displays his watercolor paintings every Sunday for the public to view on the exterior wall of the Honolulu Zoo.
And although his poor vision does not allow him to see his own work anymore, the 88-year-old says many tourists have come to enjoy his style, which lends a Western touch to his Chinese roots and training decades ago in Shanghai.
But after 52 years of placing his artwork on the zoo fence nearly every weekend, Lo might have to find another venue as Kapiolani Park presses for a city ban on commercial activities.
Such a ban would displace about 35 other artists, as well as craft fairs and possibly other park events such as the National Football League's Pro Bowl Festival.
"It would be a shame to lose this space for the artists," said Margaret Giles, a member of a nonprofit group, Art on the Zoo Fence, who has been displaying her work for 22 years.
The group has been in a long dispute with the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society, a watchdog group that oversees the park, part of a charitable trust dedicated to keeping the area open for public recreation.
The society maintains that groups like the Art on the Zoo Fence violate the trust by commercializing the area.
"Kapiolani Park should not be a storefront," said the society's board president, Alethea Rebman. "The creeping commercialism has to be stopped, no matter what the vendor is."
Rebman wants the city to more clearly define the policies on activities permissible within Kapiolani Park with an eye toward curbing activities that clog up parking, damage the grounds and leave little room for other users.
According to a 2006 report issued by the state attorney general's office, which is involved in this case because the park is a charitable trust, the city might have violated its own rules that limit permits for fairs and fundraisers to nonprofit organizations.
The city administration, City Council and Kapiolani Park Preservation Society will present their arguments to Circuit Judge Colleen Hirai at a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 14.
In the meantime, the artists will continue to display their work -- with a petition that has garnered more than 12,500 signatures to keep the artists in the park.
"We're all very concerned because we don't know what's going to happen," Giles said. "It's just a sad time for us since we've been there for so long."