Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Blue Star Voices: Visiting the Honolulu Academy of the Arts

by Regina Galvin, Program Manager, Blue Star Museums

Karlyn Pearl, docent for Honolulu Academy of the Arts give military children a tour of the Arts of Hawaii collection. Photo courtesy of Honolulu Academy of the Arts

Is that a humuhumunukunukuapuaa?

That was the question asked to lively Honolulu Academy of the Arts docent Karlyn Pond from one child in a group tour of approximately 25 military children at the July 26th Blue Star Museums Joining Forces Initiative event in Honolulu.

Without skipping a beat, Pond replied to the inquisitive visitor that the painting from the Arts of Hawaii collection may very well contain a likeness of Hawaii’s state fish. Then the group collectively said together, humuhumunukunukuapuaa---because it’s just so much fun to say out loud. Next on the agenda---pictures of volcanoes and cool legends of a Hawaiian fire goddess.

If those kids didn’t know viewing art could be fun, Pond made them believers.

That’s just what Neil Abercrombie, Governor of Hawaii, hoped would happen at the special Blue Star Museums event. In opening remarks prior to the tour, Abercrombie told the military children in attendance that he hoped a whole new world of art appreciation was about to open up to them. His wish to the children---most of whom had fathers deployed to Afghanistan---was that the day’s experience would help them build a life-long relationship with the arts.

“The universal appeal of art is that it tells us who we really are. I want you to take that message back with you to other military families and encourage them to take advantage of the [Blue Star Museums] program,” said Abercrombie.

With more than 60,000 works of art from Hawaii, Europe, the Americas, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Pacific dating from antiquity to the present, the Honolulu Academy of Arts is an aesthetic celebration of cultural diversity.

A diversity not unlike that found on military installations around the world. A diversity many military kids know firsthand from multiple moves and from living in a subculture that is an amalgam of the United States population.

Sometimes the unspoken meaning in moments reflecting on art can be the most powerful. Museum visits can help military children validate their experiences and enrich their understanding of their own culture living in the warriors’ world. It’s a nice residual effect of the museum experience---children gaining a broader appreciation of their world through art.

Also attending the event was Army Col. Matthew Kelley, Deputy Commander (Rear) 25th ID and his family. Kelley, who recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, spoke to the gathered crowd and thanked the art community for supporting the Blue Star Museums program. He then thanked his wife and daughters for their support, and he thanked spouses and family members at large who are the unsung heroes of deployed units. Kelley referenced the home front responsibilities and doing the tough job of trying to keep life as normal and pleasant as possible---like spending a few enjoyable hours at the museum.

What went unsaid that day, but was on the minds of many, was that several of the families who came to the event were from the 25th Infantry’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Twelve of the unit’s 3,500 soldiers have died in the last four months since deploying---two soldiers only days earlier.

But for a few hours on a summer afternoon, news and thoughts of the war were not foremost on these kids and moms’ minds. Funny sounding fish names and beautiful images of Hawaiian culture were.

Sometimes the unspoken meaning in moments can be the most powerful.

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