The Hawaii Island Network of Artists Research Report: Exploring the Economic and Social Impact of Hawaii Island’s Visual Artists

Aug 31, 2013

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Creating the Hawai‘i Island Network of Artists Research Report and Website project has been a fascinating experience, providing me with further insight into this amazing creative community and the arts organizations that serve us. I am grateful to Volcano Art Center’s CEO, Tanya Aynessazian, for coming to me with the idea for an economic impact study, and to Hawai‘i County for partially funding the project.

Since launching the year-long Hawai‘i Island Network of Artists (HINA) Project in August 2012, Tanya and I met with more than 100 artists through 11 community meetings, accumulated 473 “likes” on Facebook, and had 4,084 unique visitors to the website (www.HINArtists.org). Our primary goals were to prove the economic impact and rich density of Hawai‘i Island’s visual artists by surveying them. Although the project was only partially funded, causing some challenges such as not having an online version of the survey until half way through the project, we still received 323 survey responses. After deleting responses from the neighbor islands, and even one for the mainland, the final total for Hawai‘i Island was 315—giving us enough data to prove what we set out to.

Each community meeting was a different experience. Word of mouth and Facebook were our best means of spreading the news, though we did share our community meetings in Ke Ola, the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, and several of the local community papers. Other arts organizations hosted us and assisted in forwarding the news to their members, including University of Hawai‘i Hilo Art Department, the Waimea Artists Guild, Donkey Mill Art Center, and Society for Kona’s Education & Art. Several artists who own galleries helped spread the word to the artists they represent and really helped drum up participation. The Conversation on HPR interviewed me about the project on August 14, 2012 and kicked off interest across the state and Tanya was interviewed by Sherry Bracken for HPR on February 13, 2013, reinvigorating our efforts. Matthew Lovein of Lovein Productions generously produced a wonderful TV spot for us. Big Island TV donated the air time during the holiday season and website visitors increased substantially!

Community support for the project was very encouraging and we learned of the various hurdles for participation along the way, but creating the website was the largest joy for me. Reading the sources of inspiration for each artist, “discovering” artists I haven’t yet met, seeing so much beautiful work, and creating a way to share it with the rest of the world—that was bliss. My mantra has been that arts organizations need to behave more like marketing organizations in order to better support artists and I am grateful to Volcano Art Center for taking it to heart. Many of the 179 artists who chose to be included on the website are not even members of VAC.

This project was worth the investment, including $5,000 of my donated time, and though underfunded, our community helped us prove what we set out to—that this Island is rich with artists who collectively make a significant contribution to our local economy. Mahalo to everyone who participated! It wouldn’t have happened without you.

You can download a copy of the free report by clicking this link: The Hawaii Island Network of Artists Research Report: Exploring the Economic and Social Impact of Hawaii Island’s Visual Artists

Tiffany DeEtte Shafto
Project Manager
Hawai‘i Island Network of Artists (HINA)