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POSTED: Sunday, June 21, 2009

It boggles the sensibility of art-minded local folk, but apparently, there are still quite a number of residents who don't know about the existence of the Hawaii State Art Museum. The 6-year-old museum, HiSAM for short, is home to an impressive representation of Hawaii's art community.

This is especially true through July 18, during the run of “;Accession: Recent Acquistions from the Art in Public Places Collection.”; The exhibit features local artwork purchased over the past several years by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. It features some of Hawaii's newest artists, such as Eli Baxter, alongside such iconic, post-World War II artists as Isami Doi and Jerry Okimoto. “;Accession: '09”; continues the show with the latest purchases and gifts, through Jan. 16, 2010.

The arrangement of state-purchased art dates back to 1967, when Hawaii was the first state in the nation to institute a percent-for-art law, meaning funding in Hawaii comes from one percent of the cost of new state buildings.

The entire Art in Public Places collection is 6,000 works strong, with about 1,000 of them commissioned, site-specific pieces. The other 5,000 are relocatable, meaning they are displayed in 550 sites throughout the state in four- to seven-year rotations, in such places as state buildings, legislator offices and airports. These are selected for purchase by a committee that visits some dozen art shows a year statewide.

The person overseeing those 5,000 works is Stacey Uradomo-Barre, curator of the relocatable collection.

“;I think the works are wonderful,”; she says of the exhibit, which allows the public to see the new acquistions before they are dispersed statewide. “;It shows artists from Hawaii that are now on the mainland, like Boyd Sugiki, and the flip side, like Michi Itami, who had a career in New York and came back. And there's Joyce Kozloff, who's also a New York aritst. It's wonderful to expose Hawaii's people to internationally recognized artists like Kozloff.”;

At the same time, she says, the caliber of art made locally is also high. “;We're staking our claim nationally and internationally. It's really exciting.”;

Uradomo-Barre, a local girl who graduated from Iolani School and earned degrees at the University of California-Santa Barbara, UC-Riverside and University of Southern California, says she's always been fascinated by issues of public art—“;reconceptualizing art, asking what public art is, the democratization of art.”;

She finds motivation in the fact that HiSAM is still unknown to many people, saying there has historically been a disconnect between fine art and local culture.

“;I want to help make art museums (more approachable) and not elitist,”; she says. “;I'm so excited to work in a place that's committed to distributing and collecting art for the public.”;

HiSAM, located at 250 S. Hotel St., is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Call 586-0900 or 586-0305, or visit www.hawaii.gov/sfca.