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Medium White Tee art kiosk a nod to President Obama

There’s a new pop up installation at Ward Centre, a partnership between Honolulu Museum of Art and Ward Village. It’s called Medium White Tee, and it’s a nod to President Obama. 

Courtesy: Stephanie Hsu

As the press release explains, “As Obama’s second term comes to an end, Medium White Tee will make this fantasy real. On January 11, as Obama’s final day in office approaches, artist Emily Spivack will open Medium White Tee—an actual t-shirt shack that sells only medium-sized white t-shirts—in Honolulu, Hawaii. It will be offered to Obama as a gift at the completion of his presidency. He has an open invitation to take over running the shop as soon as his term is done.”

Rus from GRT Architects, Emily Spivack, Steph Hsu, me

The inspiration comes from a July 2016 New York Times article detailing President Obama’s post-White House dream. (

“There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. [Rahm] Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions. During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, ‘White.’ Mr. Obama would in turn say, ‘Medium.'”

My friend, architect Stephanie Hsu, organized the event, and says she loved “pulling friends, colleagues, community partners, etc., together to make this happen. This is what brings me joy in any project I work on– seeing the combined talents and efforts of various individuals culminate into something greater than the sum of its parts.”

Spivack sent the first shirt (1 of 1,000) to Obama as a gift.

Hsu got involved with the project to Hawaii three months ago via her connections to East Coast friends, and credits  the hard work and many hands that have brought it to fruition. “How quickly this came together locally is a testament to the strength of our local community networks. We secured a space at Ward that Ward Village/Howard Hughes is graciously donating; Nan Inc. and its subcontractors  stepped in on short notice during the busiest time of the year to build our space pro bono; Larry Heim and Honblue is donating printing services and the wall and window decals; we worked with Quinn at Re-use Hawaii to get almost all of the materials donated; the company who tends to my offices’ plants donate the palms going in the installation.”

She continues, “Through friends, we secured support from Surfjack, who will be hosting a talk story on the 19th, and vetted the local non-profit co-beneficiary of the proceeds. On top of all this, a team of volunteers will run the store, and a friend volunteered to manage the store operations and volunteer effort. Andrea Galvin and her team at Howard Hughes are working hard to organize the opening event and help market the project, as well as Lesa Griffith and her team the Honolulu Museum of Art.”

The support extends across the country, back to the artist herself. Hsu says, “Emily [Spivack] has wonderful people and organization in New York contributing to the project, including Rus and Tal from GRT Architects who designed the installation.”

Andrea Galvin, Lesa Griffith, me

Hsu describes Medium White Tee as a month-long thank you gift to President Obama. “More specifically, it’s an expression of gratitude for the considered way he made decisions, and the import he placed on those decisions, while in office. Medium White Tee is also a space for contemplation and a respite from our own daily decision–making. Visitors can stop in to buy a t-shirt ($44), or just to look around and contemplate Obama’s presidency,” according to the release.

Well, I liked the Obama presidency, and am sad to see him go. The new President gets inaugurated just ten days later on January 20, 2017.

Proceeds from t-shirt sales will be donated to The Bus Federation Civic Fund and Mala ʻAi ʻOpio Youth Community Food Systems Initiative (MA’O).

Open now until February 9, 2017
Thursday – Sunday, noon – 6 p.m.
Ward Center, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd
Ground floor near Bed Bath & Beyond
Park at Ward Centre or across the street at Ward Village Shops
More at

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