A contentious statue erected at Liliuokalani Gardens in February might be moved to a less central location.
A bronze statue called “Ho‘omalule ‘Upena Kiloi” — or “Metamorphosis of a Net Fisherman” — was installed in the park but generated controversy from members of the public who were dissatisfied with how the abstract artwork clashed with the traditional Japanese aesthetics of the gardens.
Hawaii County Parks Director Maurice Messina agreed to move the statue to a more appropriate location in March, after the Hawaii County Council rejected the sculptor’s donation of the artwork to the county. The statue is valued at $10,000, but council members questioned how and why the statue had been placed before the county had formally taken possession of it.
On Tuesday, Messina will propose a new location for the statue at a meeting of the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee. The proposal would move the statue some several hundred feet to the west, to the area north of Hilo Bay Cafe known as “Isles.”
Messina said he conferred with the sculptor, Henry Bianchini of Hilo, who approves of the new location.
“It’s a good spot,” Messina said. “It doesn’t take away from the panoramic view of the ocean.”
Messina added that it will be “less arduous” to move the statue somewhere nearby.
The original location of the statue raised complaints from residents not just because its stylistic mismatch with the rest of the park, but because the Department of Parks and Recreation did not seek sufficient public input about the statue’s placement.
“Additions or replacements to original elements have been done with foresight, written plans, community involvement, and county approval,” read a statement by the board of the Friends of Liliuokalani Gardens. “For example, the addition of stone lanterns to replace lanterns destroyed by the 1946 and 1960 tsunami was accomplished with advance international cooperation. County approval and a design plan by a renown Japanese garden designer were in place a year before the lanterns were installed to mark the 1968 centennial of Gannenmono, the first Japanese immigrants.”
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, who was critical of the statue’s placement in March, said she stands by the need for community input.
“There was little community input before, so I look forward to what the community says about it this time,” she said.
However, public opinion about the new location might not be much more positive. The Friends of Liliuokalani Gardens wrote that any placement within the gardens at all would be inappropriate.
“The Isles lawn area adjacent to the pier and the pull-out space for buses is the only oceanfront lawn picnic area along the Lihiwai Street corridor,” wrote the Friends of Liliuokalani Gardens. “It is actively used by families and individuals who bring their own mats, portable chairs, and/or canopies.
“A permanent structure like the sculpture in this lawn limits the flexibility of and options for that space,” the Friends concluded. “(The Friends of Liliuokalani Gardens) request the county to remove the sculpture from this location to another county property. Surely, with advance planning, an appropriate place can be found.”
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