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State of Public Art

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State of Public Art

Source: Honolulu Advertiser


It's easy to dismiss art as just a luxury. Compared to teacher salaries, pothole repairs and affordable housing, public art may not seem like the kind of necessity taxpayers should support.

But the truth is, those murals at the Honolulu International Airport and sculptures in front of the Waikiki Aquarium are on that list of community needs, along with sewer-system upgrades and crime-reduction units.

Love it or hate it, public art in Hawai'i has a firm place in the community.

In fact, Hawai'i is in the public-art vanguard. It was the first state in the nation to dedicate a percentage of public works budgets to art, making it a model for public-art support and increasing access and awareness of visual arts in the community.

A new exhibition on view at the Hawai'i State Art Museum chronicles the history of the state's Art in Public Places Program, which was founded in 1967 with the passage of the Percent for Art Law, and begs a conversation about the oft-debated topic of public art.

"Especially in Hawai'i, where the 'aina is at the root of our entire cultural heritage, when we build new buildings, which we need to do, we are essentially destroying the landscape," said David de la Torre, director of the Art in Public Places Program. "So the concept is to put something back of beauty that people can be inspired by ... to offset the fact that we've disturbed our beautiful landscape."

According to the Percent for Art Law, 1 percent of the budget for the construction of a new state building or renovation of existing ones

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