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State Foundation on Culture and the Arts: An Oral History

Three bronze figures in overcoats stand under local directional signs.

SFCA Art in Public Places sculpture Chance Meeting by George Segal. It is installed next to the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa campus. (COH photo.)

The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) was established on July 12, 1965, to preserve and promote culture and the arts throughout Hawai‘i. In celebration of the agency’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the Center for Oral History was commissioned to conduct an oral history project on the SFCA.

“And the thing is that when you look at the state foundation’s collection in its entirety, it is like it’s a compressed version of the art history of Hawai‘i. Because we’ve strived to represent all the various media, I think it really shows the growth and the course that visual arts took over the years the Art in Public Places program has been acquiring works.” —Ron Yamakawa

Although the SFCA has often been at the forefront of national trends in government-sponsored art programs, surprisingly little about it is available in the way of books, articles, and other published materials. A comprehensive history of the SFCA would therefore have to rely at least in part on other sources of information. These interviews provide one such additional source.

“I don’t think we have quite reached that point where we can say, ‘Okay, here is a mature organization that can look at all of these programs and be able to fully function successfully in everything.’ I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet, but we’ve come a long ways.” —Naomi Morita

The role of art in the history of modern, multi-ethnic Hawai‘i and in the lives of the interviewees is also examined.

If you don’t control your own culture, and your own vision of life, and your own participation in life, then you don’t control anything. . . . the true spirit of any kind of democracy is to have people be autonomous at the same time that they know that they’re dependent on the community around them. And I think culture and art kinds of activities are one, not the only, but one really exciting and important way of doing that.” —Franklin Odo

The interviewees, most born and raised in Hawai‘i, have long been associated with arts in Hawai‘i. Together, their recollections describe changes that have taken place over the last sixty years.


Link to audioAlfred Preis discusses the arts (.au sound file, 380K).





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