By Megan Hazen
For the past two decades, Hana Arts has been providing arts and cultural programs to the remote, rural Hana and East Maui community. Due to a decision in a recent County Council budget meeting, they’re going to be $30,000 short next year.
Hana Arts formed in 1991 to provide children’s arts and crafts classes. Over the years, their programs have expanded to include classes for children and adults in dance, music, crafts, yoga, drama and visual arts. They use Hana Public School facilities for their Creative Friday Youth Program, which is the only arts education program available to Hana children and runs every Friday throughout the school year.
Last year, 155 children participated in Hana Arts programs. Their Community Theater group–made up of professionals, amateurs and students–puts on a show every year, and is the only theater group in East Maui. In efforts to bring artistic events and professional performances to the Hana community, Hana Arts has worked with organizations such as the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and the University of Hawaii. Hana Arts is an invaluable resource to the people of Hana, and without it, the community would not have access to arts and cultural happenings.
In January, Hana Arts applied for a grant through the Department of Housing and Human Concerns (DHHC) for the 2012-2013 year. They have received this grant every year from 1998 until 2011. In 2011, the audit section of their application wasn’t completed on time, so their application was rejected. It’s a two-year grant, so they had to wait until this year to apply again.
The $30,000 they asked for was slated to pay the salary of an executive director, who writes grants, works with donors and is in charge of the various programs that Hana Arts provides. For the past two years, Robin Rayner (President of Hana Arts) has voluntarily filled this position on the assumption that their funding would be reinstated come the 2012-2013 year.
Rayner said that County Council member Bob Carroll, East Maui representative, couldn’t guarantee that Hana Arts would receive their funding, but told her that he would do the best he could. But when Rayner called Carroll’s office on June 1 to see if the budget had been finalized, she found out that Hana Arts had been removed from the budget and would not receive any of the funds they requested.
When I spoke to Rayner to find out what happened, she said she couldn’t get a straight answer from the county. Their funding had seemed secure, especially after Mayor Alan Arakawa listed Hana Arts as a “line item” on the budget.
But once the budget left the mayor’s desk and went to County Council, Hana Arts disappeared from the document, which was apparently the decision of Councilmember Joseph Pontanilla, who chairs the budget committee (Pontanilla did not return repeated calls to his office). Why that happened, after more than a decade of consistently receiving the DHHC grant, remains a mystery.
Carroll said he tried to get it reinstated on the budget, but couldn’t get the five votes he needed for it to pass. According to Carroll, the only way to get Hana Arts back on the budget was to take money away from another budget item, and no one wanted to do that.
For Carroll, this is just a temporary hard time for Hana Arts. He’s confident that they will receive the DHHC grant next year.
“Keep it going, keep the paperwork organized,” is what Carroll said the organization should do. “Even if you have to cut back this year, do what you can. Just keep the organization viable so that next year you can get the funding.”
For Hana Arts, the loss of funding means hard times are ahead.
“As of right now, there’s little we can do until next budget year,” says Hana Arts instructor Ian Cole, “In the meantime, the board is trying to do as much as we can to keep the program alive.”
That includes a member drive, fundraisers and approaching new and current donors. Hana Arts will have to rely on these hardworking volunteers, teachers, administrators and donors more than ever.
Photo courtesy Hana Arts