Artful HGEA Members Working Together For You
The Hawaii State Art Museum, affectionately known as HiSAM, is known locally for stylish events, educational advancement and of course, fantastic art. But the museum is more than just a gallery. It’s a venue for the Art in Public Places program — one of many flourishing programs run by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (State Foundation). And even more impressive, is the cohesion of HGEA members who work tirelessly behind the scenes to preserve, promote and perpetuate the arts in Hawaii.
“This is the first job where I’ve actually needed an art degree,” laughs Mamiko Carroll. As the State Foundation’s public information officer, Carroll has a hand in nearly all of the State Foundation’s dealings. Responding to public inquiries and ensuring that correct information is being sent out is just part of Carroll’s job. Luckily, she has the specialized skills needed to complete unique projects. “We don’t really have ‘typical’ days here,” says the Unit 13 member. “But my favorite kind of day would have an Art Bento class coming through the gallery.” Art Bento, which falls under the State Foundation’s Art Education Program, provides elementary school students on Oahu an opportunity for active engagement through activities connected to current arts standards. “The focus of Arts Education is not to teach children how to draw and paint or become fine artists,” Carroll says. “Rather, State Foundation strives to help create well-rounded people that can come up with creative ideas, communicate and participate in their community.”
Similarly, Senior Exhibit Specialist Teig Grennan and his team of three exhibit specialists (all Unit 13 members) put their art degrees to use on a daily basis. “There are over 600 sites statewide, and we service all of them,” he says. Grennan and his team are responsible for the state art collection, most of which is on display in state offices and other publicly accessible locations throughout the islands. ”Basically, we’re stewards of the art. We handle the distribution and maintenance of the art collection, as well as displaying the art,” he says. As part of the Art in Public Places program, all state offices and agencies have scheduled, rotating opportunities to work directly with the State Foundation to select pieces from the state art collection for display.
Despite their hectic schedules and demanding workloads, they remain light-hearted and appreciative. “We’ve built a team that wants to work with the state art collection so that adds a lot of satisfaction to what we do,” says Grennan. And their job satisfaction is reflected in their work. Executive Director Jonathan Johnson (former Unit 13 member) credits much of the 117 percent attendance boost at HiSAM to their efforts, including Carroll’s use of social media. “It’s just hilarious that I know how to upload photos to Facebook and it’s an actual, valid job skill,” Carroll jokes.
“We’re lucky to be able to do what we do,” says Grennan. “And the great benefits package makes such a difference,” he says thankfully. Prior to becoming full-time at the State Foundation, Grennan, like many others, worked in the private sector. “The benefits were just bare bones. It’s really tough,” he says. “But it’s nice to know that if I get sick here, I’m not gonna go hungry because I have to decide — do I stay home and get better or do I go to work sick so I can pay my rent.” Carroll agrees adding, “This kind of job in the private sector would most likely have crazy hours associated with it. Weekends, evenings, overtime. And, I don’t have to deal with any of that largely because of my union contract.”
Recalling the last round of contract negotiations, Carroll believes that if there was no union to push back against the employer, she’d be paid less than what she currently makes. “In this agency, we’re doing these jobs because we’re really passionate about what we do, but we also have bills to pay,” she says. “No one is counting the minutes till the end of the day — that’s just not how it works here. We don’t get paid much, so we work here because we love the art. And it’s reassuring to know the union is here looking out for us.”