Explore the Wall Street mogul’s Big Island art enclave

THE ROCKEFELLER NAME has long been associated with Wall Street and finance – but eco-tourism?

Laurance S. Rockefeller (1910-2004) was a director of Colonial Williamsburg and had been credited with opening environmentally focused hotels around the world since the early 1950s. So after Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, Gov. William Quinn invited Rockefeller for a visit, hoping he would be interested in creating a hotel to expand Hawaii’s nascent tourist industry beyond Oahu.

Sure enough, upon arrival, the financier asked to go for a swim, and from the water, looking toward the summit of Mauna Kea, Rockefeller was inspired to create the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel reflecting the natural beauty and spirit of the surroundings. Through Rockefeller, the Kohala Coast gained not only a resort, but a world-class collection of Asian and Pacific art.

Rockefeller already possessed a deep interest in Buddhism and Asian culture, gained through his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, that mingled with his love of the natural world. He was instrumental in establishing and enlarging several national parks from Maine to Hawaii, and served as an adviser to presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

In the foreword to the book, The Art of Mauna Kea, written by Don Aanavi in 1987, Rockefeller explained his ambition for the Mauna Kea Hotel in his own words, saying, “Working closely with nature was much in my mind when planning the Mauna Kea.

“I have always felt that there is much the ancient East can teach the West and saw the Mauna Kea as providing us with a unique opportunity to bring an awareness of the spirit and wisdom of the East to our resort. We decided to incorporate Asian (influences) and Pacific art into the design of the Mauna Kea in such a way that the art can become, just as the elements of nature would become, a constant influence.”

Ancient and contemporary works of art were placed throughout the hotel, under roof and outdoors to maximize visitor exposure.

“In this way,” Rockefeller said, “our visitors could encounter the works often and easily, get to know and appreciate them, and even, in some cases, study them.”

Rockefeller hoped the collection would promote cultural understanding among the peoples of the West, Asia and Oceania.

All this took place more than a quarter century ago. Today, the Mauna Kea holdings comprise one of the most extensive collections of Asian and Oceanic art assembled by a single individual since the last half of the 20th century.

The works range in form and function from religious to secular, primitive to urbane. “Far more than decorations,” Rockefeller said in 1987, “they are an enduring source of inspiration.”

In The Arts
Events Around The Islands

Ray Yoshida: A Memorial Exhibition

Kauai-born artist ray yoshida was a teacher at school of the art institute of chicago. he is credited with mentoring many of the artists responsible for the chicago imagism movement, a concept that emerged in the 1960s, combining surrealism and a rebellion against the era’s world art trends. critic ken Johnson referred to chicago imagism as “the postwar tradition of fantasy-based art making.” The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center in downtown Honolulu. March 12 through June 11. www.tcmhi.org. 1 (808) 237-5210.

‘The Boys In Autumn’

Local news anchor Joe Moore and Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak star as Huck Finn and tom sawyer in this benefit production for hawaii theatre center. the broadway play by bernard sabath reunites the famous literary pair after 50 years of having parted ways. Hawaii Theatre Center, in downtown Honolulu. June 24-27. www.hawaiitheatre.com. 1 (808) 528-0506.

Red Clay Jazz Festival

Late kauai jazz dJ w.s. Pete robinson once dreamed of hosting a jazz festival on the island. the kauai concert association began the red clay Jazz Festival to fulfill his dream. this year’s event – the third annual – hosts saxophonist Ernie Watts, jazz guitarist Peter Sprague, rhythm players Noel Okimoto, Kenny Endo and dean Taba, and Kauai’s own will lydgate trio. Fort Alexander at the St. Regis Princeville Resort. June 26. www.kauai-concert.org. 1 (808) 245-7464.

Hawaii Performing Arts Festival

The mission of the Hawaii Performing arts Festival, a nonprofit and educational performance organization, is to foster excellence in the art of classical music. a gathering of top pianists, violinists, vocalists and other musicians is the organization’s hallmark event each year. Opening night concert at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea. July 19. www.hawaiiperformingartsfestival.org. 1 (808) 881-4024.