The Necessity Of The Arts

By Marilyn Cristofori
Wednesday - August 31, 2005
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Rich Richardson, Wiwik Bunjamin-Mau,
Robbe Ripp, Lei Ahsing, Marilyn Cristofori,
Esther Izuo, Susan B. Castillejos, Marcia Pasqua
and Kim Coffee-Isaak are celebrating The
Hawaii Alliance for Arts Education’s
25th anniversary

The arts are essential to the complete education for all children and central to a healthy society.

The Hawai’i Alliance for Arts Education (“The Alliance”) is celebrating its milestone 25th anniversary this year! We were formed in 1980 in response to the statewide need for arts advocacy and recognition of the value of arts as integral to our educational systems.

The research in this area is amazing! Studies have shown that those who study arts improve achievement in all learning. The benefits go beyond higher reading and math scores. A 2004 analysis of U.S. Dept. of Education data on 25,000 youths involved in the arts found that these students not only earned better grades, but they performed more community service, watched less TV and developed more positive social behaviors. If we could only get past the myth that the arts are a “luxury,” we might really be able to affect the problems of society - like drugs and violence - in this way.

The Alliance is the Hawaii member of the National Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (“Kennedy Center”), and represents 110 arts and education organizations and 500 individual artists and educators statewide. The Alliance serves all arts - dance, music, theatre and visual arts - and our unique programs (see

) reach statewide inclusive of geography, socio-economic levels, multi-ethnicity and age, and provide access for the underserved. These programs offer education for children, teachers, artists and communities, and serve more than 30,000 on all islands.

Our Mission: 1) Urges the recognition of the educational potential of all the arts; 2) Advocates the finest arts instruction as essential to the complete education of all Hawaii children; 3) Works to provide direct experience in the arts and with their creators; and 4) Serves as a vital communication between the arts and education communities.

In order to accomplish our mission, we have led the effort for legislation that mandates establishment of fine arts standards for all schools, established the “ARTS First” program, the only mandated arts education partnership in the country (more details at; and also established The ARTS at Marks Garage as an art resource for the community in an area with the state’s four largest low-income housing projects, known for drugs, prostitution and homelessness. Its long-term goal is to become a viable economic force for the community, and is part of the larger vision of a Cultural Improvement District for the City & County of Honolulu to reverse the downward trend and create a truly “livable” community where all residents can live, work and play in a safe and unique environment with culture and the arts at its center.

We also recognize artists in the community and schools that include arts in their curriculum. Our annual Celebrate the ARTS! event is on Oct. 15 this year at the Hawai’i Theatre, and will recognize these “Arts Excellence Schools,” as well as our 2005 Alfred Preis Honoree, Beebe Freitas. Entertainment will be presented by Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine and Hula Halau Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima, the First Presbyterian Church Choir, the Hawai’i Youth Opera Chorus, the Hawai’i Opera Theatre Chorus, tenor Les Ceballos, and special guest (and daughter of Beebe Freitas) Roslyn, with a very special musical presentation. Please call 528-0506 for ticket information, and help celebrate the arts with us!

The Alliance has won frequent local and national recognition over the years. Most recently, due to the success of The ARTS at Marks Garage, we were awarded a prestigious Ford Foundation Grant to continue the “profound impact” on its neighborhood. Ford Foundation awards aim to create conditions for the development of sustainable and equitable communities. In order to accomplish this, the grant allowed the hiring of a Community Organizer position. Stakeholders in the area have formed an Advisory Panel to assure that the community has a key role in its own revitalization plans and plays a major a role in their own creative determination.

I was also recently elected to the prestigious National Leadership Board of the Kennedy Center. Only seven board members were chosen nationally, so it is a great honor for me to serve and provide a greater connection for the Hawai’i arts community with the national network.

The Alliance’s main sources of funding are grants, cash donations and in-kind donations. We also strive to fundraise creatively while also celebrating the ARTS! The popular ARTS license plates you see around town, designed by last year’s Alfred Preis Honoree Clarence Lee, raise both funds and awareness. Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro has been our “poster boy” for this effort. The ARTS at Mark’s Garage “First Fridays” have become the hottest event in town, and also bring in revenue.

Last, but certainly not least, I could never accomplish so much without a dynamic, committed and skilled team working with me. Our small, hard-working, staff and excellent Board of Directors are truly committed to our mission, and help turn our vision into reality.

We hope that everyone will come to see and appreciate the great importance of the arts in education, in our communities, and in our lives. Call us today at 533-ARTS (2787), or visit our website at for more information.

The arts are not a luxury, but a necessity.

Next week: Joe Radazzo, owner, J Salon

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