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What’s Wrong with Beauty?

Feb 10, 2017



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A recent article in the New York Times about Hawaii’s contemporary art scene, while touting some upcoming events in Honolulu, made me angry. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/travel/contemporary-art-honolulu-hawaii-biennials.html

To quote, “…contemporary arts curator at the Honolulu Museum of Art, said that because most local art “is geared toward the visitor market, with watercolors and Hawaiian-themed landscapes,” these events could help dispel the notion that there couldn’t be good contemporary art in Hawaii.”


And there was more. “Contemporary art can prosper only if there are enough venues to show and sell it. Many artists and curators in Hawaii bemoan the shortage of private galleries, especially ones that aren’t just focused on fast-selling realist landscapes of little craft or value.”

As a gallery owner, former artist, publisher of two coffee table books about Hawaii’s contemporary artists, long time volunteer, and local arts advocate, I can’t let this one go. During a time when the National Endowment for the Arts is being threatened, we have institutions belittling the value of beautiful works—landscapes, watercolors, pieces with a sense of place.

First, why is beauty not valued? Why are things that make us feel good—beautiful things we love to surround ourselves with, not valuable?

Isn’t that the value? They make us feel good? They remind us of special times in our lives? The very fact that they are “fast-selling” should show they have value as a source of revenue for our state and value to the people who purchase them. After all, Hawaiʻi ranks #3 per capita of our 50 states with fine artists and craftspeople (according to the National Endowment for the Arts 2008 “Artists in the Workforce” report). It’s beauty Hawaii is selling. Our natural environment. This incredible culture that is undergoing an amazing revival. A sense of place.

Second, throughout history, artists are the documenters of the times. The very fact that these beautiful landscapes exist today and continue to inspire artists and collectors is truly wonderful and should be celebrated! The fact that there are sea turtles, dolphins, humpback wales, and you see them show up in art, should be a good thing. You don’t see art of Dodo birds anymore… With our current government dismantling the EPA, these things all may go the way of the Dodo, and so may our beautiful landscapes as pollution and climate change take their affects. But artists are documenting all the beauty we are fortunate enough to surround ourselves with today. Collectors are surrounding themselves with images of Hawaii that inspire them to want to return. That’s a wonderful thing!

Personally, my taste runs wide and I, too, get tired of realism, but it has value. Real, beautiful value.

Third, it’s become obvious to me that all of the artwork you see in the world comes from people creating from one of two perspectives. Some work through their angst, hurt, and frustrations with their creative process, and this shows in their art; we feel their emotional turmoil. Others can create only when they are happy. Their inspiration and process flow when they let life’s worries go and instead focus on the joy that comes from creating. In Hawaii, they draw from the inspiration of living in this special place. In turn, their art uplifts people around the world who purchase their works as special remembrances of their visits to Hawaii. Powerful, positive energy.

While it’s true there are things that are ugly in this world, I’d like to say ‘Thank you’ to all of the artists who chose to focus on the positive and beauty and keep bringing more of it into this world. Thank you. Thank you.

Fourth, what’s wrong with watercolors? I work with several artists who create amazing watercolors ranging from scenic to abstract. One of them even teaches at the Honolulu Museum of Art…

Here’s the thing about art. It’s made by people sharing their life experiences. And its meant to connect with other people and create experiences.

When a painting stops us in our tracks and our jaw drops, or a sculpture draws us in for closer inspection of every angle, marveling at the lines, we feel a visceral response to the work. Art makes us feel. It is a vehicle not only for expression, but of connection.

So, why bemoan the fact that fewer and fewer galleries exist? Why not embrace the Information Age that has made it so widely possible for artists to find their collectors/audiences? Times have changed and its time for artists to become their own best selling galleries. Sure, we still need galleries through this time of transition, but its not an easy business which is why so few exist. So enough fear mongering—celebrate that change is occurring—more people can earn a living selling their art which provides the service of inspiring collectors!

Finally, it’s also clear there are many different parts of the contemporary art market with many different audiences. To claim they are all the same is like saying Alice Cooper and Justin Timberlake’s music appeal to the same people, or that since they often don’t, one or the other has no artistic value. It’s wrong. Why belittle audiences and artists that are inspired by the beauty of Hawaii and want to surround themselves with it? On one level, it’s much like what’s happening with our country right now. Polarizing. Belittling. Wrong. Haven’t we come far enough to see the value in one another—and ourselves in the process? Haven’t we found that we truly are one and can celebrate our differences?

Truth be told, the article I referred to is actually discussing conceptual art, though they call it contemporary art. After all, how many of us will drape our living room in silk tunnels, or have nets hung across our bedrooms, creating an obstacle course to the door? But there is room for that too in this broad world of art. It’s fun to experience the realities from other people’s imaginations, and I’m grateful there are spaces that provide that. But I don’t appreciate them trying to make people believe that what appeals to them has no value!

Having the pleasure of meeting and working with so many collectors, there’s one story that stands outs a great example. A mainland couple who attends Art Basel and a lot of the big art fairs around the world, and loves conceptual and contemporary art, chose beautiful plein air landscapes by a couple of Hawaii’s contemporary masters when it came time to select art for their second home here. They wanted that sense of place. It’s the very reason they bought a home here to begin with—to surround themselves with beauty.

It’s time to quit dismissing the impact of our local contemporary art scene—its contribution to our local economy, our wellbeing, and even our communities. Hawaii’s artists throughout the Islands create with a depth and breath that is inspired by living in this special place—from realist landscapes, to abstracts, to conceptual art, and this environment is beautifully documented, translated, and shared. We are indeed rich with artists.

Latest News

Jun 6, 2016



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We have such an amazing community and the response to this website has been terrific. Recently, I was asked to put a collector in touch with an artist, and here’s what she had to say, “Thank you Tiffany! I have to say your warm aloha leapt off the page and embraced me, making me want to be back there again! It is very palpable to me, just as it is when I am in the islands. How you people manage to keep this spirit alive strikes and touches me time and again.”

I love being able to make that happen! Art does that!

I’ll be reopening enrollment in October or November and am working on some site improvements in the mean time.


If you teach art, have upcoming classes, or exhibits, please send me a PDF or JPG of your promo materials and I’ll post them to Facebook and the website. I’d love to continue to update our events page and share more of the wonderful things going on here! Collectors are looking!


Have you heard about the Art Hawaii International Fair coming to Oahu this November? Interesting… And Kohala Mountain Gallery has opened a second space for rotating exhibits. Hawaii is starting to become an arts destination!

Wishing you a fabulous summer full of creative blessings!

Open Enrollment Closes in 3 Days!

Mar 29, 2016



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Seeing the beautiful work, stories, and websites of the artists enrolling in the Hawaii Island Network of Artists is so inspiring. Hearing that the site has made a difference to local artists and Hawaii art lovers is even better. We have such a rich community of creative people inspired by living in this special place–influenced by the beauty and culture that surrounds us every day. It’s wonderful to come together to create this resource directory to help connect beyond our shores.

Only three days left to enroll for your page before the opportunity closes!

Affirmations with One Week To Go!

Mar 24, 2016



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Call to artists

Monday started with some pretty exiting news–this was posted to our Facebook page.

“Let me serve as witness!” shared Christina Skaggs. “Please everyone support Tiffany DeEtte Shafto in her efforts to advance this site that we are so lucky to have. I had an exciting inquiry just this morning from an international art consultant for public places and where did they find my work? HINA. Let’s do this people!”

That was a pretty powerful testimonial!

And I’d had a powerful affirmation just one week before. During a lunch date with collectors they shared how happy they were that this site is getting revived. They’d found it while searching for Hawaii artists, and saw it was out of date, but still managed to connect with a couple of artists. Hearing them lament over how hard it is to find artists on this island and how great this resource directory is, was pretty encouraging.

It’s working. It matters. And this site can help us all thrive if we come together as a part of it.

The countdown is on–one week left! Calling all Hawaii Island visual artists to enroll today and showcase your work on the Hawaii Island Network of Artists website!



Call to artists!

Mar 13, 2016



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Call to artists

Are you a visual artist:

living on Hawaii Island (at least 50% of the time)? earning all or part of your living from the sale of your art? and you have a GET license?

If you answered yes to all three, you are eligible to enroll in the Hawaii Island Network of Artists and have your own web page!

Your page will feature:

an image of your art a bit about your inspiration and a direct link to your website or contact info

All for only $99/year. Plus, you’ll receive the Reframing How You Think About Your Art Business webinar for free (a $29.95 value)!

Upon subscribing, the fun begins! You’ll receive a quick questionnaire to give us all the info we need to help collectors find you by media, district, and last or business name. And then you’ll receive the webinar–a $29.95 value, and a free gift to you!

Your HINArtists.org webpage is a great way to help promote your art business for only $99/year! The benefits are many.

Direct sales! No fees. No commissions. Help your work be discovered by collectors interested in art from Hawaii. Be a part of showcasing Hawaii as an arts destination. Receive monthly emails with call-to-artist opportunities and local art events around the island. Advertising opportunities at discounted rates. And 10% of the profits go to support our local arts non-profits!

Our collectors want easy ways to discover inspirational new work, and this is one of them! Sign up to be included today! Enrollment will close on March 31, 2016. Click here to sign up today! If you still need convincing, read this. (And if you’re already on the site, there is no additional fee for this first year–mahalo again for participating during the project!)

It’s Coming Back!

Feb 25, 2016



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Call to artists

Did you know Hawaii ranks #3 per capita of our 50 states with fine artists & craftspeople (according to the 2006 “Artists in the Workforce” report by the National Endowment for the Arts)? When I read those words, it was an affirmation of what I already felt to be true about this special place, and it has inspired me ever since.

Our community is rich with artists! 

When the Hawaii Island Network of Artists project began (from 7/12 – 7/13), it was funded by the County through a grant I wrote on behalf of Volcano Art Center, and a bunch of my volunteer time. A survey looking at the “Economic Impact” of local artists was the key, but I also wanted to create a website to to help showcase Hawaii as an arts destination and act as a resource directory to connect visiting collectors with local artists.

It worked! 

Local artists do contribute a “significant” impact on our local economy (you can read the report here). And over the years, I’ve heard from a few artists that they have made direct sales because of the website! Plus the site has been averaging 1,000+ visitors a month without even trying, which is pretty exciting!

But it hasn’t been maintained, and while I’ve submitted proposals over the last few years, there has been no further non-profit funding for the project. I’ve realized that it’s up to us to showcase our community so we can be seen as an arts destination and draw in more of our ideal clientele. So, with the blessing of Volcano Art Center & Hawaii Artist Collaboration, I decided to take the project on.

The Hawaii Island Network of Artists is coming back! Without a survey.

The HINArtists.org site is a visual resource that beautifully shows the art being created here and provides a direct way for collectors to connect to the featured artists. That’s a valuable resource–both for the featured artists and for showcasing Hawaii as an arts destination!

If you’re not familiar with this site, please check it out! It’s a non-juried site—the only criteria for being included are: 1 Visual artist, making all or part of your living from the sale of your art 2 Living on Hawaii Island, at least half time 3 Have a GET license

If you meet the criteria, you can get your feature page showcasing your work, a bit of your story, and a direct link to your website or contact info, for only $99 annually. No commissions. No additional fees. All direct sales are yours!

Enrollment will begin March 7th and will close on March 31st.

(If you’re already on the site, there is no additional fee for this first year–mahalo again for participating during the project!)

Plus, 10% of the profits from the site will go to support our local arts organizations. And, I’ll post calls-to-artists, interesting art tidbits, and latest things I’ve learned along this creative journey!

So get ready to connect and share your art with those searching for artists in Hawaii! You’ll receive an email when enrollment begins!

Mahalo for being a part of our incredible creative community!

With Warmest Aloha, Tiffany DeEtte Shafto Hawaii Island Network of Artists Project Manager

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)

Mahalo to everyone who participated in the Hawaii Island Network of Artists project! We received a flood of last minute participants and ended up with around 320 total! We know it’s still a small portion of working visual artists on this island, but we are very grateful to have proven there are more than 270!

We’ll be adding artists who submitted their info to the website over the next couple of weeks and we’ll be sharing what we learned in August.

Mahalo again!

With Warmest Aloha, Tiffany DeEtte Shafto HINA Project Manager

A super mahalo to Sherry Bracken, who attending our North Kona Community Meeting at Donkey Mill Art Center, for helping us to spread the word! Here’s a link to the info on HPR! HPr 2013 2-13 Wed Hawaii Island Artists Network

We’re excited to share that since launching our new online survey, we’ve had 45 artists participate in just 19 days! Mahalo to each of you for following our news! Please share this opportunity with at least 10 of your local artist friends. We have until May to finish the survey and website and then we’re onto report writing. This is a pivotal project that will affect how artists are viewed in our society and the funding available to us. Let’s come together to show our positive effect…together we can make a difference!