Gov. Neil Abercrombie wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect to lose his bid for re-election.

His Aug. 9 loss in the Democratic primary to Sen. David Ige also seems to have caught the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts off guard.

The foundation is responsible for the official portrait that Hawaii governors have had done for the past century when their term comes to an end. But the board, apparently expecting Abercrombie to be in office another four years, did not approve the $45,000 budget and nine-month timeline for his portrait until Wednesday. 

Gov. Neil Abercrombie leads news conference concerning Turtle Bay area. 4.17.14 ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Gov. Neil Abercrombie speaks at a news conference, April 17, 2014, in the ceremonial room at the Capitol. Portraits, from left, of former Govs. John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle hang on the wall.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The portraits are normally unveiled in November or December before the next governor takes office. If Abercrombie’s portrait goes according to plan, the painting won’t be completed until May and the unveiling won’t take place until late June.

The foundation has yet to solicit potential artists. That’s expected to start Oct. 1 with a post on www.callforentry.org. Abercrombie and First Lady Nancie Caraway will then choose an artist Dec. 31, according to the timeline the board approved.

The budget for the portrait is $40,000, which includes $35,000 for the artist’s fees, airfare, hotel, car and per diem; $2,500 for the photographer’s expenses; $2,000 for the frame and plaque; and $500 for crating, shipping and insurance. 

The unveiling ceremony, tentatively set for June 24, has an additional $5,000 budget that includes the printing of invitations, entertainment, lei, a caterer and cleaning the unveiling cloth.

Public money for the portrait comes from the Works of Art Special Fund. The governor’s office appropriates funding for the reception.

It’s unclear if the foundation’s $6.5 million budget for fiscal 2015, which started July 1, includes money for the portrait. 

The governor’s spokesman, Justin Fujioka, referred inquiries to the foundation, including a question asking why the money may not have been budgeted and its effect on the timeline for completing the project.

Messages left for the foundation’s director, Jonathan Johnson, and the project coordinator, Karen Ewald, were not returned Thursday.

Lingle Portrait

Gov. Linda Lingle stands next to her portrait during its unveiling, Nov. 22, 2010.

Office of the Governor

Six large paintings of former Hawaii governors — from William Quinn to Linda Lingle — currently hang on the koa walls of the ceremonial room inside the governor’s office at the Capitol. 

The tradition dates back to Sanford Dole, according to the foundation’s staff. He served as the first territorial governor, taking office in 1900 after the U.S. annexed the Republic of Hawaii.

The purpose of the portraits is to provide a “visual and historic record imparting insight into his character and administration,” according to the foundation’s staff. Each governor chooses the style, setting, colors and tone to reflect who he or she is and how they would like others to remember him or her.

Lingle, a two-term Republican governor, unveiled her portrait Nov. 22, 2010, two weeks before Abercrombie took office.

The foundation budgeted $35,000 for her 36-inch by 48-inch, oil-on-canvas portrait. The final cost for the photo, portrait and framing came in at $16,350.

Lingle was the first governor since John Burns, who left office in 1974, to choose a local artist, Christy Fujii, to do the official portrait. She was also the first to wear a flower lei.

The tradition is customary in many states, according to the governor’s spokesman, Justin Fujioka.

There’s been speculation that the governor will model his portrait after Gov. Ben Cayetano’s, which has him posed outside. However, Fujioka said the governor has not made any decisions about his portrait yet.

The next governor — which will be Democrat Ige, Republican Duke Aiona or the Independent Party’s Mufi Hannemann — will decide where to place the portrait.

Abercrombie’s portrait is tentatively set to be installed in the Capitol on June 25, the day before his 77th birthday.

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