Ann Botticelli, Vice President for Community Relations & Communications at Kamehameha Schools, responded to the recent entry here concerning the fate of a large mosaic mural by noted Hawaii artist Louis Pohl. The mural, done by Pohl and his students when he taught at Kamehameha, is installed on a building slated for demolition.
Thanks for your patience in awaiting my response to your inquiry. There has been a lot of discussion and effort aimed at preserving and restoring the murals, which were created by the students of Louis Pohl in 1958. Our original plans included restoring and reinstalling the murals and we contracted a private firm to remove and save the works prior to demolition. During the mandatory process of testing for hazardous materials, asbestos was discovered in the grout surrounding the tiles. As a result, the Department of Health required all three mural systems – grout and tiles included – to be handled as an “asbestos containing material.” That is a significant distinction that forced us to reconsider our original plans.
The process and requirements for removal and remediation of ACMs, as it has been described to us, is pretty intense. One option is to remove the entire mural and encapsulate the piece prior to reinstalling it. However, we are told that once the material is disturbed, it becomes an ongoing safety risk. We would not want to shoulder that risk in a school environment. This method also creates ongoing operational maintenance, because the mural must be checked annually by personnel who undergo annual asbestos awareness training. This operational requirement would be in place even if the mural were installed at another KS property.
Another, more painstaking, option is to sand-blast the grout potentially damaging the mosaic further, and then replacing the grout. The ongoing safety risk is removed with this process, but it is quite expensive.
We have contacted Ross Stephenson of the State of Hawai`i Preservation District office and offered the mural for reinstallation elsewhere. Mr. Stephenson told us that he contacted Mr. Pohl’s widow and others in the art community, but was unable to find a recipient or installation venue.
What we have done is take high-quality digital photographs of the murals, with the intent of putting them on our website and possibly in the future making a large photo print for display in the Middle School Learning Center. It’s not what we originally envisioned, but at least we will still have a record of this part of our history.
ps-I should have mentioned that the tiles in the murals are less than 1″ square, so there are thousands of them. That makes the sand-blasting option harder.