(NOT) ON EXHIBIT
STAR-BULLETIN / 2004
Chris Campbell's "Modern Cat" finds an audience at the "Artists of Hawaii" exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. (The woman is part of the work.) The annual juried exhibit is cutting back.
Isle artists divided over show’s changes
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The Honolulu Academy of Arts will not hold a 2008 "Artists of Hawaii" exhibition, the state's largest juried art competition. A revamping of the show will turn it into a biennial event, with the next exhibit slated for May 2009.
The academy says the all-media show is being given a new format to provide artists more time to conceptualize and create fresh new work. The show, established in 1950, attracts hundreds of artists statewide; last year artists competed for cash prizes of up to $2,000.
A new feature will be a four- to six-week residency by the juror, who will make studio visits to artists who survive the first round of jurying. The move to a biennial format follows the lead of art communities in major U.S. cities like New York, the academy said in a statement released Wednesday.
But many in Hawaii's artistic community are worried about the change, saying the academy is cutting into already sparse opportunities for local artists to seriously show their work.
"Across the board, artists are communicating in e-mails that they are concerned about it," says Carol Yotsuda, of the Garden Island Arts Council. "There aren't that many venues that are as significant, that stand out as important in the eyes of the artists, as (the 'Artists of Hawaii') show."
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The buzz in the local art community has ascended more than a few decibels with the announcement that the annual "Artists of Hawaii" show has been canceled this year. Since last summer the most dire word on the street had been that the state's 57-year-old premier juried exhibit would be shut down altogether. Instead, the Honolulu Academy of Arts decided the show would become a biennial.
"It's a pity," said Sidney Lynch, president of the Hawaii Potters Guild. "The Honolulu Academy of Arts is the most prestigious venue for art exhibits in Hawaii. While there are many up-and-coming galleries, the academy offers the widest exposure for local artists."
In announcing the decision, the academy cited Honolulu's flourishing art scene as a reason for the change. It said it now competes with a growing number of new galleries and organizations for original work.
"We've seen work that didn't make it into the show being resubmitted the next year and sometimes the next. This (change) pushes people to thinking in the long term rather than trying to enter each year. It pushes original work," said Michael Rooks, the academy's curator of European and American art. "We were thinking of how to make the exhibit a more meaningful, deeper experience."
In that vein, the new format will include a four- to six-week residency by the juror, always selected from the mainland. The juror will make first-round picks online and hold studio visits with artists for a second round.
"There can be discussion and feedback, something Hawaii artists rarely get," Rooks said. "Then, if selected again, the artist will make work specifically for the exhibit."
For some, the addition of a residency adds credibility to "Artists of Hawaii."
"A juried show is tricky business," says Timothy P. Ojile, who won the exhibit's Director's Choice award in 2006. "On the one hand, you have artists who really want to be legitimized by being included, and on the other, a juror who is constructing a show according to his whims and desires, and the results are sometimes exhibitions with a very particular, often narrow point of view."
Artist Jodi Endicott agrees. "I really like the idea of a juror getting to know the community through studio visits. I think it will bring this show up a level, to see the intent in what's being done here."
But critics say the loss of annual "Artists of Hawaii" shows will further restrict the few opportunities local artist have to show their work. The only other state all-media juried show is the Japanese Chamber of Commerce's annual "Commitment to Excellence." Other annual juried exhibits, the Hawaii Craftsmen and Honolulu Printmakers shows, are media-specific. And on the neighbor islands, there are the "Art Kauai" and "Art Maui" shows.
These shows introduce upcoming artists to the professional world and provide established artists exposure. Adding a juror residency "just doesn't offset taking away a show a year," Lynch says.
Other artists expressed similar sentiments but declined to be quoted.
"I think the shows we have are a lot for a community the size of ours. I think we're adding something really important to the scene, to evolve the scene in a healthy way," he says.
Either way, the change means artists must take more control over having their work shown, some artists say.
"If you can't find a place to show your stuff, create a place by yourself. Don't depend on institutions," says artist Jon Koga. "Be accountable for yourself."
Rich Richardson, artist and creative director of the ARTS at Marks Garage, says artists should bring the high-caliber work they submit to the academy to downtown, where the art scene is growing.
"There's nothing like showing at the academy. It's a prestigious place to list on the rsum. It really does make you step up and get your act together, be professional," he says. "Artists should use the same skills to take advantage of the opportunities downtown. Don't get discouraged. Pursue the idea of showing new work.
"Now, maybe the downtown spaces will step up and fill the void."