The following is a letter to State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Executive Director Eva Laird Smith:
On Monday, February 25, 2013, an unfortunate incident occurred at the Hawaii State Capitol while the Exhibit Specialists were installing works of art from the Art in Public Places collection. While performing our duties at Representative Hanohano's office, room #418, the ES team were subjected to what I believe falls under the definition of workplace violence.
As the ES were installing the works, the Representative came out of her personal office and began a tirade on how "ugly" the artwork was and why weren't artworks being installed in her office done by Native Hawaiian artists. The ES answered her inquiries politely, but were addressed with culturally insensitive and racist criticisms such as "...any work done by [KITV has chosen not to print the racial slurs targeting people of Caucasian, Japanese or Chinese ancestry], you can just take away right now and on and on....". We were shocked into silence by the Representative's use of such offensive language. But we were especially taken aback when Representative Hanohano threatened to cut funding to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts if she didn't get any artwork done by Native Hawaiian artists. We stated that we would gladly remove the artwork if she was not happy with the selection.
Representative Hanohano replied that she'll "leave them up for awhile, and when she gets sick of them we can come get them later".
As the State of Hawaii has a zero tolerance policy and does not condone workplace violence, I will not permit the Exhibit Specialists to return to work in her office.
On a personal note, as a third generation Japanese American born and raised in Hawaii, I am deeply offended, hurt and angered by her remarks. I am old enough to have lived in a time and place where the next thing following the word [racial slur] was a punch to the face.
The Exhibit Specialist team is a culturally diverse group of highly trained professionals; as such we pride ourselves on our ability to educate and share our love of the arts with the community. I have worked for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for over 10 years and have never been subjected to such hateful racist language in the workplace before. This kind of blatant racist language must never be tolerated anywhere in the state of Hawaii, but especially not at the State Capitol. As an elected official, Representative Hanohano must be held accountable.
James T. Kuroda
Senior Exhibit Specialist
State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Art in Public Places Program
250 South Hotel Street, 2nd Fir
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813