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Strength in numbers

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Times continue to be immensely challenging for the arts, as indicated by the Honolulu Symphony’s ongoing struggles and the likely merger of the city’s two big art museums, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum. Recently, word got out that Hawaii Craftsmen, a much smaller organization staffed by one lone body (an additional half-time position became unaffordable a few months back), is perilously close to becoming an all-volunteer operation.

Doom and gloom abound.

Artistic creativity is hardy stuff, however, as the 32nd annual "Commitment to Excellence" exhibit proves. The show runs through Thursday at the Academy Art Center.


Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce’s 32nd annual exhibition

Where: Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St.

When: 1 to 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday

Call: 949-5531


The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce’s statewide juried show drew 450 submissions this year, a formidable number for jurists Tom Klobe, Inger Tully and Ann Asakura to assess.

"The process of jurying is always difficult because so many works are submitted," admits Klobe, director emeritus of the University of Hawaii Art Gallery. "Real selectivity has to take place."

Yet the "problem" of high volume is a welcome one: "The sheer numbers are really great," says Tully, a curator at TCM.

IN NAVIGATING the selection process, the trio were consistent in their picks, Tully says. Asakura, co-founder of TEMARI — Center for Asian and Pacific Arts, attributes that to a common global sensibility.

"Inger used to live in Japan, and because of that, and because Tom is so well traveled, we really tried to bring not just a local viewpoint," she says.

For Klobe, a seasoned juror, it all comes down to artistic principles.

"Generally, when looking at art, I consider three standpoints," he explains. "I look at formality — how the piece holds together as a work of art; technique — is there good technique; and concept, which is maybe most important. Is the artist conveying a significant message? Has it been said before? If it has, are they saying it in a new way?"

TULLY DEEMS the end result "a really strong show."

"There are some new people, which is always wonderful, and established artists going in new directions," she says.

"I loved the energy of the entries," says Asakura. "More than 400 entries is just outstanding. It was good to be in a room where people have put their hearts into something."

Given the current state of the arts, the trio gives kudos to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for its commitment to the annual exhibit.

"This is one of the veteran shows. More than 30 years is remarkable and to be commended," says Asakura.

"It’s always a very exciting show," says Klobe. "It’s wonderful that the Japanese chamber continues to do this year after year. It’s a wonderful way of recognizing Hawaii’s artists."



The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce honors one artist each year at its "Commitment to Excellence" exhibit. This year their pick is painter Tom Okimoto, who spent 25 years teaching art to psychiatric patients at Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe.

A selection of Okimoto’s work greets visitors as they enter the gallery space. The artist works in acrylics, oils, watercolor and gouache to produce vivid pieces that include incredibly detailed miniatures.

"There’s a sense of isolation in Tom’s work," says David Behlke, director of the Koa Gallery at Kapiolani Community College. "He’s a careful painter and a wonderful colorist, and he labors over every millimeter. There are no accidents in his work."

"Tom has helped in so many areas of art in Hawaii," says juror Tom Klobe. "It’s wonderful that the Japanese chamber is recognizing him."

The show also includes 20 invited artists in addition to those selected by jurors.


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