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Saturday, December 16, 2000

State of Hawaii

Cayetano touts
state’s new home
for culture, arts

The public is invited
to an open house at the
former Hemmeter Building

By Pat Omandam

Hoping one day it will become "Hawaii's equivalent on a mini-level of New York's Metropolitan Museum," Gov. Ben Cayetano announced the completed purchase of the former Hemmeter Building in downtown Honolulu as the new headquarters to display the state's art collection.

Cayetano told those in the art community yesterday the $22.5 million purchase was a tremendous bargain for the state, given that the previous owner, BIGI Corp., paid developer Chris Hemmeter $80 million for it in 1990.

The governor said Thursday's closing of the deal, completed a year after the state was approached to buy the building, secures a new home for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, which will immediately get the first two floors of the five-story, 72-year-old building.

"This will be a very big, big shot in the arm for the art community in Hawaii," he said. "We propose that this will give us an opportunity to house and not only showcase the art of Hawaii, but also to turn this building into a center for the performing arts as well."

Hundreds of pieces of state art are displayed now in public schools and government buildings; many more are in storage.

As planned, the main entrance will lead into a sculpture gallery and lobby with the historic architecture as a backdrop.

An Ewa Gallery will exhibit about 150 works of art since statehood, while a Diamond Head Gallery will display rotating exhibits and host other programs, including the state Department of Education's national scholastic art-show competition.

Some art expected for display in the galleries are paintings by Hawaii artists Jean Charlot, Reuben Tam and Madge Tennent.

The rear ground floor will be used to document, preserve and conserve collections and prepare for exhibitions, as well as for foundation offices.

Plans are for an existing swimming pool (built when the building was a YMCA) to be made into a waterfall and sculpture garden.

The foundation will decide whether fees will be charged. State Budget Director Neal Miyahira said maintenance will run about $300,000 a year.

The public can visit the building at an open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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