See Student Artists Shine at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum

The 60th Annual Hawai‘i State Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition is now open, featuring the work of 250 award-winning student artists.


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Photo: Courtesy of LVRG Group


This year’s Hawai‘i State Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition at HiSAM is the biggest yet, featuring 250 silver key and gold key award-winning artwork from student artists in grades 7-12. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, along with its nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is the nation’s most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. They work closely with their regional affiliate: the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA). It’s the largest student art competition in the state and it received over 2,800 entries this year from 49 public, charter, private and home schools from across the islands.


Local firm Gravitas Pasifika helped organize the logistics of the judging and also presented the opportunity to work with new judges from across the Pacific through Zoom meetings. Born out of necessity during the pandemic, the judging and adjudication through Zoom became beneficial for everyone involved in the lengthy process of narrowing down the many entries.


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Photo: Courtesy of LVRG Group


SFCA Project Manager Kamakani Konia works tirelessly on the Scholastic Art Awards exhibition each year, from organizing the entry submissions to installing the award-winning artwork at HiSAM. The process from start to finish takes months and this year, the museum had an opening in their exhibition schedule that allowed the use of its ‘Ewa Gallery. “It was then that we realized that what better way to celebrate sixty years of Hawaiʻi’s participation in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards than to dedicate an entire wing of the museum to student artwork!” Konia says. “We were able to give so much wall space to our younger artists and the results are incredible. It’s still a little cramped but we were able to curate the space more effectively than ever.”


Visitors can see outstanding artwork representing 17 different categories of media, from film to fashion and everything in between. The pieces are carefully displayed by theme throughout the spacious ‘Ewa Gallery. There is even a playful section dedicated to eyeball drawings.


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Photograph by Kailee Umaga-Silva, Grade 12. Educator: Aljon Tacata. Photo: Courtesy of Governor Wallace R. Farrington High School.


One of the works with a more serious theme stood out to Konia this year, a photograph titled “Will I Ever Be Seen” by Kailee Umaga-Silva. “Whenever I see this photograph, it shakes me up a lot. It’s one thing to see an abandoned wheelchair: they’re everywhere in town. It’s just one of those things that you’re kind of numb to nowadays.” Konia explains, “But there’s something about the empty leg casts that adds this sense of dread and conflict. Like there’s someone out there who really needs specialized medical attention but the pessimist in you thinks that they’re not going to get it. Or maybe you look at the glass half-full and you hope with everything you got that something’s going to get done.”


In the end, Konia’s thoughts turn optimistic. “This work is so sobering and heart-breaking and encompasses so much of our conversations around homelessness and poverty in Hawaiʻi, and it takes a show like Scholastics to remind us that the kinds of challenges that we face as adults affect our young people too. I’m thankful that they’re thinking about these issues, and we’re all looking forward to working with them to come up with solutions.”


Rachael Kim - Student Artwork - "Voice" - Grade 11

Multimedia piece titled “Voice” by Rachael Kim, Grade 11. Educators: Wook Choi and Meeka Fontaine. Recipient of The MORI by Art + Flea Excellence in Creative Media Award and The Mihoko Ogawa Memorial Award. Photo: Courtesy of Mid-Pacific Institute.


Another reason to be thankful is the return of the in-person awards ceremony that was hosted on the front lawn of HiSAM for the first time since 2020. Gravitas Pasifika organized and booked flights for numerous neighbor island students to attend the festivities. Teachers and family members were able to proudly watch as the young artists received their awards.


Thirty-nine scholarship awards were given to student by organizations like Puʻuhonua Society and the Associated Chinese University Women. “We’re always so grateful and thrilled when the student artists receive scholarships from the community.” Konia says. “No matter the amount, these accolades do so much to boost the self-confidence of these kids because they get that validation knowing that their art is inspiring others.”


Interested parties looking to offer a scholarship award over the course of the Scholastics programming can email Konia at


Free, family-friendly event. On view till May 6, 250 S. Hotel St., 2nd floor, Open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on state holidays. For more information follow @hawaiistateartmuseum