Honolulu Free Museum Find: HiSAM

I usually view museum art behind glass, on one side of a rope and under the watchful eye of a guard.

Not so at the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM). Dubbed the “People’s Art Museum,” HiSAM deserves a place on everyone’s Honolulu activity list.

First you take a historic building with Italian scrollwork and architectural details modeled after the Davanzatti Palace in Florence. Next you showcase incredible Hawaii art from the past 40 years on the building’s second floor with its grand lobby and high ceilings. Finally, you open the doors to the public and not charge a cent to enter.

Result: You’ve got HiSAM.

Even though the museum has been open for 6 years, we toured for our first time last week. I was immediately struck with its emphasis on contemporary Hawaiian folk art and the accessibility of art to the public.

At HiSAM you can view an extensive selection of the State’s Art in Public Places Collection. Hawaii was the first state in the nation back in 1967 to pass an Art Law. This set aside one percent of the cost of state buildings for the acquisition and commission of art.

In addition to the museum, the Downtown Cafe is located on the first floor next to the museum gift shop.

Downtown Cafe features two dining options. There’s a take-out deli with a lot of interesting salads. We opted for their informal dining room and lunched on Ahi club sandwiches. At $10 each it was a fair price. The fish was cooked perfectly, seared and rare in the middle. A wasabi dressing accompanied the sandwich. It needed more wasabi and less mayo.

Our overall rating for food and service: B. HiSAM gets an A.

HiSAM Details:

Parking: Bring quarters for the street parking meters. Each quarter buys 10 minutes. I’d allow 90 minutes for museum and lunch.

Location: No 1 Capitol District Building, 250 South Hotel Street, Floor 2, across the street from the State Capitol (towards downtown).

Hours: 10-4 Tuesday to Saturday. The Downtown Cafe is open Monday to Friday until 2pm. and Saturday, 11-2.

Special Public Programs: First Friday Concert 5-9pm, Second Saturday Family Activities 11-3, Art Lunch Lecture last Tuesday from 12-1.

Bus: Route 2 or 13 will take you there from Waikiki.

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