Art Kauai 2013 opens today

Art Kauai 2013, an eclectic exhibition featuring dozens of Kauai artists, opens today at the Kauai Society of Artists gallery at Kukui Grove Center in Lihue.

 “The call went out to all resident artists on the island of Kauai,” exhibit co-chair Robert Lober said. “All artists were invited to submit three pieces.”

The juried show put together by KSA, a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, will offer eight cash prizes and four honorable mentions.

 “It’s one of the premier shows on Kauai,” said Rose Ann Jones, co-chair of the exhibit.

Art Kauai 2013 is also a rare chance for local artists to have one of their pieces acquired by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and Arts.

This is the only show on Kauai that is attended by the foundation’s Art in Public Places Committee, which for more than 30 years has been acquiring art in Hawaii to be displayed in public buildings, Jones said.

“It’s a big deal. If you get one of your pieces purchased by the committee, it’s a feather in your cap — it’s an important recognition of your skill and creativity,” Jones said.

She said KSA received 135 pieces for the show. KSA invited Ray Freeman, president of the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, to jury the show.

Freeman arrived Saturday on Kauai and worked tirelessly to put the show together, using his experience as an art curator and as an architect. Earlier in the week, he said he was planning to include somewhere between 75 and 100 pieces into the show.

“One of the reasons why I’m including so many pieces is because I am trying to learn from what the artists are doing here, and take a look at their work and understand a story of Hawaii,” he said.

What people will see is Freeman’s interpretation of the Hawaiian story.

“These guys are all trying to tell you something, they’re all trying to tell a story,” he said of the local artists who submitted their work.

Freeman said he was taking each piece and using them collectively to make something larger.

“My goal is not to cut the thing in half and throw out the bad ones and keep good ones,” he said. “I’m trying to keep the ones that have something to say.”

Freeman worked as a curator for three or four shows on the Mainland in the last couple of years. He said it’s clear that he comes mostly from a contemporary arts view. To some extent, he said, he is bias against art that is more cliché, tourist-oriented or “made just because we’re here and it’s Hawaii,” which shows a little bit of “intellectual laziness.”

“But if you’re good at it, OK, I’ll buy that,” he said, throwing his admitted bias out the window.

A peek into the submitted art revealed that this will likely be one of KSA’s most successful exhibits, with a range of styles coming from well-known and unknown local artists.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of KSA receiving a federal nonprofit designation, but the society has been around longer than that, Jones said.

The opening is from 5 to 8 p.m. today, with pupus and refreshments available. Helen Turner and Jeff Iglesia will be entertaining the crowd with jazz throughout the night.

Freeman will share his thoughts and experience with the public, and the awards ceremony will be at 6 p.m.

The exhibit will continue daily from 11 to 5 p.m. until Nov. 3.

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