A several-year effort to rescue, restore, and install labor murals by noted Hawaiʻi Ceramic Artist Isami Enomoto has earned UH West Oʻahu’s Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR) a Preservation Award from the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation.
The award will be presented to Dr. William Puette, CLEAR Director, along with Docomomo US-Hawaiʻi, and Bank of Hawaiʻi, during the Preservation Honor Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 23.
“The murals were meticulously restored and relocated to a meaningful and publicly accessible location,” noted Kirsten Faulkner, Historic Hawaiʻi executive director, in a letter to Puette. “We congratulate you and your exemplary preservation efforts.”
Faulkner also noted in her letter that the Preservation Honor Awards are Hawaiʻi’s highest recognition of preservation projects that perpetuate, rehabilitate, restore or interpret the state’s architectural, archaeological, and/or cultural heritage.
The award is a nice finishing touch to the rescue and restoration of the five murals, which depict Hawaiʻi labor scenes in the early 1960s. The murals hung above teller stations at the Bank of Hawaiʻi branch on Kapahulu Avenue until 2015 when the location was sold. Enomoto was considered a top Hawaiʻi ceramicist and his work graces several mid-century buildings. When artist Jean Charlot needed a ceramic technician, he turned to Enomoto. That included work on the extraordinary mural on the United Public Workers building on School Street.
At Bank of Hawaiʻi’s request, Docomomo US-Hawaiʻi stepped in to save the Enomoto labor murals, agreeing to warehouse the large pieces while it searched for their new home. Docomomo US is a non-profit group dedicated to understanding, preserving and documenting the modern movement in planning, architecture, landscapes and public art.
CLEAR agreed to help raise the almost $43,000 for the restoration and installation, and obtain wall space in the James & Abigail Campbell Library, where the artworks now reside outside the CLEAR offices. The murals were installed in December 2017 during the Winter Break.
The Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation was founded in 1974 and enourages the preservation of historic buildings, sites, and communities relating to the history of Hawaiʻi. UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham is a member of the foundation’s board of trustees.