When board members at Manzanita’s Hoffman Center for the Arts realized their biggest fundraiser of the year was a no-go, they did what you might expect an arts center to do — got creative.
Every year, the center hosts a summer party in the block-sized garden — designed by the “doyenne of dirt,” Ketzel Levine, no less — across the street from the center. The party typically raises $55,000, but with COVID-19 still raging, this year’s event had to be canceled. To make matters worse, the center’s usual programs, which raise 50 percent of its income, also had to be canceled. But there was still the mortgage to pay. Center officials reluctantly let contractors and some staff go and cut costs where they could, but the center still anticipated a budget shortfall of $50,000. What to do?
“We reached out to artists in our community and asked them to make 5-by-7-inch art,” said board chairwoman Mary Roberts. “We supplied them with the materials, and gave them a month. They returned 175 pieces of art to us. It was very much fun … fantastic creativity. We turned around and sent the art to our donors with a fundraising note, ‘By the way, here’s a gift to you from one of our artists to thank you for being a supporter of the arts.’”
A volunteer addressed the notes in calligraphy on high-quality paper, with a biography of the artist on vellum. The responses included messages such as “Beautiful presentation,” or “Too bad I don’t get to dress up and talk too much at the garden party, but love my personal painting…,” and “Wow, you guys rock.”
The goal for the fundraiser is $25,000, which is being matched through July by several local donors. In the first week, the center has raised nearly half of the $25,000.
Compared to the garden party, “this was much easier and far less expensive,” Roberts said. “Though, also less fun. The donor isn’t getting to do the things they normally get to do, so they got a little boost to be reminded how art lifts our spirits. It’s a total win-win to do it that way.”
Center volunteers are also getting the hang of virtual programming.
“We see the center as a way of creating community,” Roberts said. “We see ourselves as a marriage of art and community, and so this pandemic has been a huge challenge. It’s taken us a while to shift gears. Everything we offered was in person. Suddenly we had to figure, what are our options? What has value? It’s just a scramble. It’s taken a while.”
But it is happening. On Thursday, June 25, the center is offering an online Zoom presentation on The Art of Pebble Mosaics With Jeffrey Bale, dubbed the “master of mosaic” by the New York Times. The Creating in Place program is open to artists who just want to share their work, and writing classes also are offered online.
The virtual programs have some advantages you won’t find at the brick-and-mortar center. Attendance is unlimited, and costs normally incurred by hosting in the building are nonexistent.
“Also, we’re not limited to the instructor,” Roberts said. “We had a geranium class from a woman from Marin County, California. We can bring really interesting, unusual opportunities to this small rural community that we normally wouldn’t be able to offer. We’re learning some really unique advantages to virtual classes. Everybody is trying to learn and figure it out.”