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Hidden Treasure – The Honolulu Academy of Arts is a gem

Honolulu Academy of Arts

What image do you have in your mind if I say “art museum?“ For some, it’s a stuffy display; others imagine pretentious hipsters with black clothes and bad attitudes. I don’t have those doubts, I enjoyed art museums when I toured Europe as a college student but they were large and scary. On my own, I felt lost but on a tour I felt herded.

Honolulu has the perfect antidote to art museum angst. The Honolulu Academy of Arts is a gem. It is fairly small and unintimidating yet it has an impressive collection. In addition to paintings, there are displays of sculpture, fabric, and sometimes photos or even furniture. If you want a tour, they are available. In fact, there are a number of free tours every day. It’s also easy to wander around — signs give you information about each item. The small rooms make viewing a very personal experience.

The first time I went to the art academy, I saw an exhibit of furnishings that people brought to Hawaii in the early 1800’s — some western, some from China and Japan. It was fun to see what people treasured enough to ship half way around the world. There was also a display of Japanese paintings. I know nothing about Japanese art, this was the first time I had seen it but the display and signs made it very easy to understand and enjoy. I actually got a lump in my throat while standing an arm’s length from a Picasso — just imagining him touching the same canvas then in front of me brought tears to my eyes.

The museum is arranged in a series of collections that are housed in small galleries around courtyards. You can spend a few minutes, a few hours or a few days exploring them. The academy shop sells books, prints, and unique gifts. As with the art on display, Hawaiian works are prominent. A cafe serves lunch from 11:30 – 2:00 pm. The art academy is closed on Mondays. The admission is $10 but seniors (62+), students and military pay only $5 and children under 12 are free.

Whether the art academy is your first experience in an art museum or you are an art connoisseur, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The building and its contents are a true treasure in the heart of Honolulu.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Aug 28, 2009