Kevin Hoffberg has been officially named the new executive director of Vashon Center for the Arts.
In March, Hoffberg stepped down as a board member of the organization to accept a paid position as VCA’s director of operations, steering the organization in the wake of the sudden departure of Susan Warner, who served as VCA’s executive director for the previous 11 months.
No formal search for a new executive director was conducted.
VCA’s board president, Denise Katz, pointed to Hoffberg’s management of the organization for the past three months as one of the reasons for his hire.
“In [his] months as director of operations, Kevin has made a huge difference to our organization,” said Katz, in a press release about the appointment. “He has earned the respect of the staff and our donors and has developed a culture of proactive communication with both Vashon artists and the broader community.”
The press release touts Hoffberg’s initiative to present a new Vashon Summer Arts Festival at VCA, where 100 island artists will display and sell their work. Under Hoffberg’s direction, VCA has also committed to returning to VCA’s previous exhibition model, with monthly shows by local artists.
This is the second leadership hire by VCA in recent months. In April, Angela Gist, the organization’s former deputy director, was named to the post of artistic director.
Hoffberg, 62, moved to the island in 2013 and joined the board of VCA in 2016. He and his wife, artist Eddy Radar, operate the Blue Moon Farm on Vashon and own two other rental properties on the island.
Before moving to Vashon, Hoffberg had lived in Seattle since 2002. Before then, he spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area.
His LinkedIn profile lists a long career as an executive, consultant and entrepreneur, working in almost 20 companies — several of which he started — in industries ranging from technology to marketing, banking and asset management. One of his most recent positions was an almost six-year stint as managing director of marketing for private client services at Russell Investment, ending in 2016. In 2017, he became managing director of HoffbergDRMC, a company described as “expert in building healthy businesses, identifying, attracting, engaging, selling, serving and retaining great partners, clients, customers, and team members.”
According to VCA’s press release, Hoffberg is also a photographer and published author.
Hoffberg, a prolific blogger, has spent years publishing his own essays on a variety of subjects, which can now be read at kevinhoffberg.com, and he is the co-author of a book about customer service, branding and sales, published in 2003. He also blogged as part of his position at Russell Investments, and one of his first moves at VCA was to establish a blog on the organization’s new website. He pens a weekly update, “Friday Fish Wrap,” there and has also made two entries under the heading of “Building Our Building,” aimed at keeping islanders informed about the history of VCA’s multiyear campaign to build its new, 20,000 square foot arts campus.
Though Hoffberg has never been employed by a large arts nonprofit organization, he has been involved in the arts in a variety of ways over the years, including serving on the board of Seattle’s well-known granting organization, ArtsFund, from 2012 to 2015.
In a brief interview, Hoffberg said his long experience in business enterprises has given him the skills and experiences needed to run Vashon’s 51-year old, premier arts organization.
“I just don’t see what we have to do here at VCA and every other organization I’ve run in the past being all that different,” Hoffberg said. “In all cases, we want to create great dialogue, conversation and a sense of invitation, so that people become invested in what we are doing. In the last four months, we’ve been able to do that.”
Hoffberg also pointed to his lifelong love of the arts as something that motivated him to assume the reins at VCA.
“I believe in this organization, and it got its hooks into me,” he said. “So when the call came, I took it.”
He cites a lineage of family connections to the arts, starting with his mother, who once created an arts-in-the-schools program. His sister, he said, became a highly regarded visual artist, as has his wife. His daughter, he has noted, is a professional dancer.
“I realize the importance of sustaining all the arts in any community,” he said, in the press release announcing his hire. “You could say it’s in my DNA.”
Hoffberg’s current salary at VCA, he said in the interview, is $100,000.
His previous appointment as director of operations, following Warner’s departure, took place shortly after a contentious town hall meeting in February, which drew about 200 people to VCA’s lobby. At the meeting, islanders raised questions about recent changes at the organization, including the closure of the Heron’s Nest, a diminished calendar of exhibits by local artists, the treatment of artists who contributed work to VCA’s art auction and the state of the historic Blue Heron building.
The organization’s finances were also called into question during and after the meeting, when it was revealed that a $6 million trust, donated to VCA by islander Kay White and long described by the organization as a sustainability fund or quasi-endowment, had been dissolved to help pay for construction costs of VCA’s $20 million new facility, which opened in 2016.
Recently, Hoffberg has vowed to help chart a course for the organization to a secure financial future, a process that will be guided by the formation of a new strategic plan for VCA.