As the Association of Hawaii Artists approaches its centennial, the group continues as the oldest uninterrupted art association in Hawaii. One of the earliest functions of the Association of Honolulu Artists (as it was known then) was to put on an annual exhibition of local artists. These were held for many years at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (as it was known then). Academy director Mrs. Isaac [Catharine E. B. ] Cox introduced a policy to purchase one painting from a local artist per year from these shows for the Academy’s collection.
Tasked with assisting in the selection process, the Association of Honolulu Artists is organized. In prior years, the Honolulu Art Society organized these exhibitions, but later only funded the purchase award. The society, mostly an organization of patrons, eventually merged with the Friends of the Academy around 1949. To recommend a painting for purchase, AHA members would have two ballots: they could vote for themselves, and for one other piece, to insure impartiality.
In its organizational statement, the Association of Honolulu Artists looked “To elevate the standard of exhibit by the local artists in Honolulu; to promote the idea and appreciation of art in Honolulu; to create more definite contact with mainland artists and exhibits, thereby to bring to Honolulu some of the prominent work of art of the mainland; and to co-operate with educational institutions of Honolulu, particularly with University of Hawaii, and with Honolulu Academy of Arts, for the encouragement of art work.”
Founding artists and early members included Huc M. Luquiens, Lionel Walden, Arthur W Emerson, Madge Tennent, S. Fujioka, A. T. Manookian, J. May Fraser, John M. Kelly and D. Howard Hitchcock.
By the 1930’s, AHA was gaining recognition and news coverage for their regularly held art exhibits. Gathering momentum, the periodic art shows grew more established and much broader in scope. In 1948, AHA conducted a contest for the design of the Aloha Week (as it was known then) ribbon. Starting the following year, the association held a non-jury art show concurrent with Aloha Week. The annual festival is now Aloha Festivals, and the Aloha art show is our oldest ongoing themed exhibit.
Our name was changed to the Association of Hawaii Artists in the 1980s in order to encompass artists from all islands.
AHA has promoted the multimedia arts and its artist members and allows artists of all media to come together for comradeship, education, showmanship, and moral support. We encourage the expression of our diverse cultural heritage and explore themes that reflect the islands’ current issues. We work to promote art education and growth through AHA’s educational programs, scholarships, workshops and group demonstrations as well as with various annual juried shows.