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Southern Exposure: An arts center thrives in Manzanita

How the Hoffman Center helps keep the city vibrant
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on November 8, 2017 12:01AM

Nancy Webster enjoys pottery classes at the Hoffman Center.

R.J. Marx/The Daily Astorian

Nancy Webster enjoys pottery classes at the Hoffman Center.

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Vera Wildauer, president of the Hoffman Center board of directors.

R.J. Marx/The Daily Astorian

Vera Wildauer, president of the Hoffman Center board of directors.

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Encaustic artwork in the lobby at the Hoffman Center.

R.J. Marx/The Daily Astorian

Encaustic artwork in the lobby at the Hoffman Center.

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After a 25-year career in bank marketing, most recently in executive management, Vera Wildauer moved to Manzanita full time in 2006. In 2008, she co-founded the Manzanita Writers’ Series, bringing regional authors to the coast for readings and workshops and encouraging local writers to share their work during open mic.

In 2009, Wildauer joined the Hoffman Center board of directors, working to expand the center’s marketing efforts and manage the center’s blog. She also generated press releases and flyers for literary and other events. She served as president beginning in 2014.

Her board experience includes eight years with a mental health nonprofit in Everett, Washington, where she served as board president for four years.

In 2012, she co-founded the North Coast Squid, a journal of local writing and art, to further develop the writing community in north Tillamook County.

She lives with her husband and cat in what had been her family’s beach house since 1975.

Q: Who were the Hoffmans? Were they the inspiration for the center?

A: Oh, yes. Lloyd Hoffman was a painter. And Myrtle Hoffman was a musician. They were extremely welcoming to artists of all sorts.

Q: Did they live here full time?

A: Yes, for many years. Their house was across the street from where we are now. They had a trust specifically to create a cultural center.

Their house really wasn’t a very good venue, so in 2007 the founding board bought this building, which was kind of like an antiques mall.

Over the years it evolved and we refurbished it, making it more suitable for the kinds of programming we do.

Q: Did you have a model for the arts center when you started?

A: I think it was definitely original from the start. The first board went around and looked at a few arts centers and also had community meetings. As time has gone on, we’ve really developed the programming out of the interests of the community.

Q: What were the first activities?

A: The clay program was started in 2004 when they got a kiln, and it’s evolved a lot since. The clay studio is in existence because there is a strong group of people who are focused and excited about that. In fact, we are the only publicly accessible clay studio between Astoria down to Lincoln City.

Q: Tell me about the center’s organization.

A: We have a nine-member board comprised of local community members.

Q: Do you have any paid staff?

A: No. We have contract employees — a bookkeeper and a cleaning service. Basically all the program staff and the board are unpaid.

Q: What is your title?

A: I am board president. My origin is through the Manzanita Writers’ Series. Kathie Hightower and I started that in 2008. I write poetry and short fiction.

Q: What type of programs do you bring in for writers?

A: The main thing is the writers’ series. We bring in authors. Usually those folks do a workshop of some sort, with some sort of craft element or publishing.

Q: Are there a lot of writers in town?

A: Yes, all levels. And Gary Seelig is really working the music scene.

Q: There seem to be a lot of artistic people in Manzanita.

A: It’s a historical legacy. There always was. Manzanita was an enclave for writers and artists of all sorts, a place to get away. In fact, several of our featured authors ended up moving here.

Q: So they come in, give a lecture and then they go back and decide they want to settle here full time?

A: Yes, at least as second-home owners and frequent visitors. We are more a retirement-age kind of place.

Q: Are younger artists coming here as well?

A: The clay studio has attracted a younger set, which is cool. We just had young adult author April Henry spend a full day at the (Tillamook) middle school and high school talking about writing and what inspired her. Another part of our writing program is the publication of the North Coast Squid. We have a young writers’ category where we try and encourage young people to submit as well.

Q: Sounds like there is no shortage of creative input.

A: We probably have 100 volunteers for all of the different programs.

Q: What are your challenges?

A: Well, funding. We are definitely moving toward more stable funding sources, growing our donor base.

Q: More stable than what?

A: About half of our revenue is earned income — admissions, tuition sales and proceeds from gallery sales. But we still have to rely on donations.

Q: Do you rent the building out for events?

A: We have a lot of meetings here, presentations. The local emergency response team meets here.

Q: Any new programs?

A: Our “Art of Dying” program is going gangbusters. It can be anything from green burials to setting your priorities later in life, to setting up a network of people to help you. Certainly everybody is very engaged and interested in making their lives rich with experience. Those kinds of things really help people stay young, vital and active.

Q: How important is the Hoffman Center to the artistic core of Manzanita?

A: Well, it’s hugely important — of course I would say that! What we offer is not just people being involved with the arts, but that creative expression that comes from doing things with people. It’s really important to the well-being of the community.

Q: Is there a downside to this?

A: No! This is a happy spot.

Q: Do you get people from outside of the area?

A: Typically we get people from Astoria down to Pacific City. For our writers’ workshop we got two people from Alabama. They looked online and found two workshops. There was one here and one in Pennsylvania, and they decided to come here.

R.J. Marx is The Daily Astorian’s South County reporter and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette.


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