EDITOR’S NOTE: “Waldport as arts destination? A flurry of new galleries and studios says it could be,” Cheryl Romano’s story about Waldport’s burgeoning gallery scene, was published originally on Jan. 13, 2022, by YachatsNews.com, an ArtsWatch Community Partner. ArtsWatch is republishing the piece with permission.
An Oregon Coast tourism website says visitors to Waldport can enjoy “sandy, unspoiled beaches, wooded hiking trails” and more in this “surprisingly varied, but often passed-over, destination.”
That “passed-over” status may be changing.
The modest town of 2,300 residents is seeing the sudden addition of three art galleries, a ceramic studio, a coffee house/entertainment spot, and a possible new home for a fledgling arts group.
“I’m extremely happy as mayor to welcome all these new businesses,” said Mayor Greg Holland. “It’s been my dream since I moved here 15 years ago to build a cultural economy for Waldport.”
If an economic makeover indeed occurs, it may build on these new enterprises:
Bader Fine Art Gallery, 120 Highway 101. Photographer Donna Bader of Yachats, who bought the two-story building near Hi-School Pharmacy, plans a Jan. 20 opening of her art gallery. She’ll showcase her own art to start, then expand into exhibitions and sales for other artists. “There’s incredible talent in this area,” she said. Waldport Family Cuts will remain in the back of the building. Email her at Donna@DonnaBader.com.
Chill Coffeehouse & Gallery, 520 N.E. Commercial St. Artist/facilitator Diana Buckley and her partners have big plans for the former home of Chuck’s Waldport Video, including an art gallery with space for classes and demonstrations, a coffeehouse featuring live entertainment, and a community spot for people to gather. Its name comes from Chuck Hill, the late beloved video store owner and artist who signed his works “CHILL.” Opening date when remodeling is finished. Buckley can be contacted through the business Facebook group “The Chuck Hill Building.”
Waldport Events & Art Gallery, 485 W. Cedar St. Sarah Bratsch opened the business three months ago in a former chapel. Half of the 4,000 square feet she leases contains an art gallery featuring locals’ work; the other half contains furnishings, tables, and more artwork in a space available for arts classes, parties, and meetings. “All the feedback has been, ‘We really need this here,’” she said. Call 714-499-7380 or email WaldporteventsandArtGallery@outlook.com.
Slipstream Clay Studio, 385 N.E. Alsea Hwy. Ceramicist Vicki Lynn Wilson opened her business in mid-December, focusing on a studio and classroom. “We’re not a gallery really; we’re more a hands-on center to learn pottery and drawing,” she said. “I just bought six pottery wheels for classes.” Classes are enrolling now. Call 503-730-7577 or go to the website.
Alsea Bay Center for the Arts: Headed by Holland, the 4-year-old nonprofit arts group has its eye on the former Waldport Heritage Museum building on Grant Street. The building is empty now that the museum moved to the Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center. The city of Waldport owns the building and last month sought proposals to use it from interested groups, including the Waldport Lions Club. “The museum is an opportunity for the council to decide what might be the best fit for the city; it is not predetermined by any means,” said City Manager Dann Cutter.
Nevertheless, Holland envisions the arts center’s possible new home as a partnership with various local groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and library. He’d like to see the center offering summer youth arts programs, maybe music and theater performances, and classes.
“My dream is to have it busy 24 hours a day,” he said, as a key part of making Waldport “the arts center for the Central Oregon Coast.”
Another option, in Cutter’s view, might be for the city itself to turn the museum into temporary workforce housing.
“We have positions open that will be hard to recruit without having temporary housing to offer,” he said. “It will be a continual challenge.”
A council decision – with Holland recusing himself — on the museum’s future is expected by February.
The right time and place?
While leaders of Waldport’s mini-art boom naturally think the time is right for the city to expand culturally, not everyone is so sure.
“For people having tough times economically, it’s hard to get excited about things that don’t lead to a paycheck,” Cutter said. Still, he said it’s “really important to note that the city is excited by the growth in different venues. We just struggle to find ways to support those new businesses effectively.”
Without a crystal ball, no one, of course, can accurately predict whether art as an enterprise can be sustained in Waldport. The people leading the charge, however, are full of confidence and hope.
“Every single person who walks in — whether it’s an artist or someone browsing or buying — says the same thing: ‘This is what we want here; we’ve needed this for so long,’” said Bratsch of her Waldport Events & Art Gallery. “It’s not just about my gallery in particular. It seems like everyone wants Waldport to be more of an art destination.”
Having worked with area artists for more than three months, she said, “I’d like everyone to know how supportive the arts community has been. It’s all just support and motivation and working together.”
That same collaborative spirit was echoed by Buckley, speaking of her work to open Chill Coffeehouse & Gallery.
“There’s no competition. We’re collaborating,” she said of Waldport’s “community of art.” Buckley’s daughter and her wife, who live in Corvallis, bought the building in November; the couple are silent partners in the business. The ground floor of Chill is 2,500 square feet; the second floor, with about half that space, will be a 1970s-themed vacation rental.
An on-site member of the Chill team will be Rachel McCabe of Yachats, an artist and owner of the Beachside Buzz coffeehouse just south of Waldport along U.S. 101. She’ll be running the coffeehouse part of Buckley’s enterprise, and created the acrylic-painted window scenes that decorate the new Chill space.
“…on the verge of something great”
“Chuck Hill was like a father to me,” McCabe said, when she moved to Waldport in 1995 with her mother. Now with four children and two businesses, she was “honored and flattered” when Buckley approached her to run the coffeehouse.
“I feel like Waldport really is on the verge of something great,” she said.
Something decidedly not great happened to Bader just before she bought the building that’s becoming Bader Fine Art Gallery. There was a fire in her Yachats home when she was first out-bid to buy the building. When the first bidder backed out, she asked herself, “Do I want a building when I don’t even have a house?”
Renting while her home undergoes repairs, she chooses to see the opportunity as a blessing.
“Instead of something being destroyed, I was building something. It’s wonderful.”
As a working art photographer since moving to Yachats from California three years ago, Bader perceived a need for art spaces in the area.
“There’s a ton of artists out there, and they have no place really to share their art, especially during the pandemic,” Bader said, adding that some have come to her saying they want to teach drawing, collage, or other art forms. “I’ll be asking the community what they want to see in terms of workshops and lectures.”
At Chill, Buckley’s aim is to offer a mix of art, coffeehouse, and entertainment.
“I’m thinking about having a comedy night, a music night, a movie night — anything that might give people a place to hang out comfortably, see beautiful art, sip some coffee (or wine and beer on certain nights).”
Due to the limited availability of contractors, the Waldport resident doesn’t have an opening date yet. In the meantime, she and longtime friend Amy Anderson, also an artist, are doing what renovation work they can themselves.
“I am excited and terrified,” Buckley said. “My vision is for this building to become a center — a heartbeat — of Waldport.”
If her vision and those of her fellow artists materialize, maybe that “passed over” website description of Waldport can morph to Holland’s view of the city: “the arts center of the Central Oregon Coast.”
Cheryl Romano is a Yachats freelance reporter who contributes regularly to YachatsNews.com. She can be reached at Wordsell@gmail.com