Honolulu Museum of ArtOne of Oahu's oldest cultural institutions changed its name last year, parting ways with a moniker that's been confusing Aloha State visitors for decades.

Founded as the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1927 and now home to a permanent collection of more than 50,000 pieces spanning more than 5,000 years, Hawaii's most revered fine arts showcase was officially renamed the Honolulu Museum of Art last spring, in part to keep Oahu travelers from thinking the institution was a place for students.

"We did some marketing studies, and they were just glaringly problematic," said Stephan Jost, the museum's director, who found in a survey that only 13% of visitors realized it was an art museum; most thought it was an art school.

Jost said clarifying and refocusing the organization's branding has been an important objective.

The museum underwent a dramatic expansion two summers ago, when the Contemporary Museum, located in the hills of Makiki Heights a few minutes north of downtown Honolulu, gifted its multimillion-dollar, 3,500-piece collection to the art museum in summer 2011.

That joining of forces was followed by the name change, and today the two institutions operate collectively as the Honolulu Museum of Art, offering separate exhibition schedules at two different locations within the city.

The additional collection, including many important contemporary works, has given the Honolulu Museum of Art a far more holistic collection; Jost said the museum had had strength in Western and Asian art but not as much from the last 20 years.

The museum now features a permanent, 3,650-square-foot contemporary exhibition at its main facility along with the contemporary galleries in Makiki Heights.

Featuring works by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol, the museum is also home to a renowned collection of Hawaiian artwork and important contributions from ancient Asian empires.

Jost believes the museum's remarkably diverse collection hasn't generated the notoriety it deserves nor attracted enough of Oahu's millions of visitors.

As part of the museum's rebranding, he added, it needs to present itself as more than a "little museum in the Pacific. Little museums in the middle of the Pacific don't have Van Goghs and Monets."

The museum is partnering with hotels like the Waikiki Parc and the Halekulani on complimentary admission programs and works regularly with Aqua Hotels & Resorts promoting museum events.

"The [Museum] is definitely something that adds to the visitor experience here on Oahu," said Elizabeth Churchill, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Aqua. "We just need to work on how we get more of our visitors to go and enjoy the place."

Mike Kikuyama, director of sales at the Waikiki Parc hotel, said the property provides guests complimentary admission to the museum as a way to offer travelers more than just beach time.

"[Visitors] are focused on the weather, the sun, and the sea," he said. "But I think we are seeing a change in that now, because there are so many repeat customers coming and there's a larger focus on culture now, and even more so for the luxury market."

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 4 to 17. Visit www.honolulumuseum.org.
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