The meaning of Family Sunday: a conversation with Aaron Padilla

While we currently aren’t able to share the onsite, in-person joy of participating in HoMA’s Family Sunday presented by Bank of Hawaii Foundation, the museum has pivoted to online Family Sunday activities until it’s safe for all of us, keiki and ‘ohana, to gather together again. In the meantime, we caught up with Aaron Padilla, HoMA’s Director of Learning and Engagement, to talk about his long-standing history with Family Sunday and what makes  it such a beloved and one-of-a-kind community event.

Aaron Padilla

Aaron Padilla, HoMA’s Director of Learning and Engagement

Aaron, how long have you been involved with Family Sunday?

For me, it all starts from the very beginning. I was actually hired by the museum in 2006 to coordinate the entire Family Sunday program—I managed all aspects of the monthly keiki and ‘ohana day for about a year and a half, before taking on other responsibilities in HoMA’s Education department. Even though my role has changed over the years, I have always been involved in some way or another, from developing the direction of programs and activities to creating partnerships with community organizations that join us. Today I oversee Family Sunday as part of a suite of Learning and Engagement activities designed for families, welcoming everyone  to be a part of the art, culture, and fun that defines the day.

What makes Family Sunday such a special community event?

Family Sunday is the magical moment in each month when the museum most genuinely reflects our own community, a time when the people, families and organizations that make up our diverse neighborhoods take center stage. They get to present their personalities, talents and ideas right alongside the art and programs in our collection, showing just how important the range of interests and diversity woven into the fabric of our community is to us. I really feel that what happens here every third Sunday of the month is that people get to see a true reflection of themselves and their cultures when they come to the museum, and I think it’s really important that we continue to value and honor that.

Family Sunday

Participants at Family Sunday presented by Bank of Hawaii Foundation

Can you tell us about your most treasured Family Sunday memory?

There are so many memorable ones, but to this day the one that still makes me smile is a project called I Heart Grandma. In January 2010, with the help of  the museum’s now-retired Curator of Textiles, Sara Oka, we put out a call for photographs of grandmothers. The idea was to create a quilt-like work of art displayed within a special exhibition of artwork gifted to the museum in honor grandmothers. Because our call for submissions was cast far and wide, it yielded hundreds of entries from across the state. None of us were prepared for the deluge of intimate, heartfelt stories that accompanied each photograph, and the massive turnout of multi-generational families visiting the museum to express the love and pride of family and art that spilled out from the museum that day. It was an unforgettable experience, and to this day I use it as a personal measure of success for all of our programs. If we endeavor to inspire and engage our community on that level in everything we do, we will be making a difference and doing right by the community and by ourselves.

What do you think the future holds for Family Sunday, given the times we live in?

Now more than ever, this community needs events like Family Sunday, which allow us to nurture connections to art and to each other. These connections are an integral part of the human experience, and of heightened importance during difficult times. And, while that in-person connection has been taken away from us for now, we as a community must continue to search for the obvious digital venues and alternatives that allow us to connect in meaningful ways. That’s the challenge for us as a museum, to retool and reimagine that really important synapse. Frankly, I still don’t have a clear idea what that specifically might be, but I am certain that it needs to happen and am confident in our team to find the best solutions for our audiences and supporters. We are exploring new and innovative ways to engage families and reach wider audiences, taking into consideration that our new normal will look much different from our past—and we’re up for that challenge.

What does the partnership with Bank of Hawaii Foundation mean to the museum, and how has the Foundation’s support evolved over the years?

Family Sunday is a testament to alignment in vision and core values between our museum and Bank of Hawaii Foundation. The depth and consistency of our working relationship to make this event successful month after month is like no other that I’ve been involved with in my time at HoMA. We are truly fortunate to have such a like-minded partner roll up their sleeves with us to ensure that our community wins and has an opportunity to connect, be inspired, be proud, and shine in ways they haven’t before. I want to thank Bank of Hawaii Foundation’s Momi Akimseu and her team, the Blue Crew, and all of the other bank employees who have played a role in bringing the community together through Family Sunday all these years. We value this partnership and the friendships that we’ve forged, and look forward to even deeper connections in the future.

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