Sound of art at Mauna Kea

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The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawaii Island is doing more to highlight its extensive art collection covering Asia, the Pacific Rim, Hawaii and Oceania, including a new series of podcasts.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawaii Island is doing more to highlight its extensive art collection covering Asia, the Pacific Rim, Hawaii and Oceania, including a new series of podcasts.
Many hotels and resorts feature art displays, but the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has a true collection, a focused selection of art in a variety of mediums that is woven throughout the property.


The collection has been an integral part of the property on Hawaii Island's Kohala Coast since it opened in 1965. Developer Laurance S. Rockefeller sought out art from Asia, Oceania and the Pacific Rim to fill the resort.

"When Rockefeller started accumulating the pieces for the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, he had a twofold goal," said Mauna Kea public relations director Vicky Kometani. "He felt art was a great way to bridge the cultures of East and West  and he also wanted it to feel comfortable and approachable  like it would be displayed in your home. There are pieces everywhere, and they are not marked and, other than some of the textiles and things, they are not in glass boxes."

Now the hotel is shining a spotlight on the collection, which includes about 1,000 original works of art. Mauna Kea recently launched a podcast about the art and has plans to better present and feature the various works.

The podcasts allow those far away a chance to learn more about the diverse collection, which includes bronze guardian dogs from a Thai temple, an ancestral figure from a New Guinea ceremonial house and a large collection of handmade Hawaiian quilts that Rockefeller commissioned for the hotel. The podcasts will also serve as a tour guide for guests who cannot make the weekly tour held on Saturday mornings.

"The art collection is something truly special and unique," Kometani said. "There is no hotel in the world that has anything close to what we have in terms of breadth and variety.  There's a responsibility to share this with more people than our guests. We started thinking about how you do that in today's world, and podcasts entered the conversation."

The podcast is hosted by local resident and fill-in tour guide Suzanne Hill, and in the first episode the audience gets an overview of the collection with guest Patti Cook, who typically leads the tours.

Episode two of the podcast is dedicated to one of the hotel's most well-known displays, a 5-foot-tall pink granite Buddha sculpted in India during the seventh century that sits beneath a Bodhi tree.

"It's probably the only piece that we'll do a whole podcast on by itself," said Kometani. "The way it's displayed is just phenomenal at the top of a beautiful garden staircase."

Hill and the team plan to produce six or seven podcasts covering different aspects of the collection, and more initiatives are on the way to both protect the collection and make it stand out more to guests. Also of significance is a collection of kapa, a traditional Hawaiian cloth created by pounding bark, made by Malia Solomon who is credited with helping to bring the ancient art form back to prominence in the Aloha State.

The hotel is working with Oahu's Bishop Museum to better preserve and protect some of the delicate pieces. Some of the works will get placards to explain their origin and significance.

"More than 50 years after the collection was started, we're at a crossroads where many of the works need some attention," Kometani said. "We want to stay true to Rockefeller and his purpose, and still protect the collection for the future. In some cases what is currently presented in more of a decor fashion needs to be presented in a more museum-like way to protect it."
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