Debuting in Hawai‘i in the Spring of 2017, the Honolulu Biennial Foundation (HBF) is gearing up for the inaugural event by hosting ongoing public programs, educational workshops, and through participating in international art shows and events, such as this summer’s Seattle Art Fair.
The mission of the HBF, says Artistic Director Isabella Ellaheh Hughes, is to put a spotlight on the art and culture of Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands, in a way that has not been seen before.
“Hawai‘i is that type of place that people have connections to—we’ve heard really great stories from people at the Seattle Art Fair about how they have always come to Hawai‘i and really enjoyed it, but they actually don’t know too much about our art and culture scene,” Hughes says. “So, they were are really enthused to learn about the biennial.”
Hughes says she and the other representatives from HBF were especially pleased to be a part of the Seattle Art Fair due to the city’s similarities to Hawai‘i.
“It’s a bit honor for us since we share a mutual interest in the Pacific Rim,” Hughes explains. “As a biennial, we focus on the Asian continent, the Pacific and the Americas, and so this felt like a natural fit for us.”
Hughes says they are thrilled at how many people stopped by their booth at the Seattle Art Fair who are affiliated with various art communities, galleries, and events that the HBF can forge potential partnerships with.
At the Seattle Art Fair, the HBF displayed its traveling exhibition, “Ring of Fire: VIP Tour,” which acts as a sampling of the types of contemporary art that festival-goers can look forward to at the biennial in 2017.
The primary mission of the HBF is to “foster greater intercultural exchange and understanding through art.” The biennial will also highlight Honolulu as a “fresh destination for international and national arts and cultural visitors,” and the board is passionate about “fostering a cultural awakening and repositioning of Honolulu as central to the Pacific-wide growth of arts, technology, and commerce.”
This mission, particularly the biennial’s ability to create a platform for Hawai‘i artists, is what really clicked with Katherine Anne Leilani Tuider, and prompted her to come on board as development director.
Another aspect that strongly speaks to Tuider, whose undergraduate degree is in public health, and who is also a trained artist, is the foundation’s focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) programming for Hawai‘i’s youth.
“We have a great program that incorporates both the sciences and art in make art an integral way that you teach the sciences was really encouraging to me, because of seeing how art is being cut across the country in curricula,” Tuider says.
The HBF will be paramount in creating opportunities for local artists, Tuider says, and will also “offer more opportunities for people locally to see international artists, because we don’t have any dedicated spaces for contemporary art in Honolulu, or in fact the entire archipelago.”
There is quite a large local population of people from Hawai‘i living in Seattle, particularly in the arts community, Tuider says, “because they didn’t feel they have the same opportunities in Honolulu as they would in Seattle to really see their career grow.”
“It’s great to be approached by artists from Hawai‘i who say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re doing this, finally there’s going to be more of an arts scene in Honolulu and Hawai‘i,’—hearing that is what touched me the most, and seeing people from Hawai‘i’s excitement.”