A former church in Hillsboro known for its hand-quarried red rock exterior is now a thriving arts center that invites all ages to its varied programming.
The Walters Cultural Arts Center, located in downtown Hillsboro, and just two blocks from the MAX Blue Line, has been serving local residents with arts-based classes, concerts, lectures and more since 2004.
“This historic property began its second stage of life when it was purchased by the city in 2000 to realize civic leaders’ goals of creating an arts center for Hillsboro residents,” says Bridie Harrington, cultural arts program supervisor in the city’s parks and recreation department. “A generous grant from Glenn and Viola Walters made the dream a reality and over the next four years, local citizens, business owners and the city of Hillsboro joined together to renovate the building.”
The building was originally built by parishioners of Trinity Lutheran Church, who purchased the site in 1941. Volunteers from the church used dynamite to extract the beautiful, hand-quarried red rock that adorns the building’s exterior, Harrington says.
After more than 150 trips to bring the rock from the quarry in Camas, Washington, to Hillsboro, the building was dedicated in 1949 and served as the Lutheran church for many years.
In 2004, the Walters Cultural Arts Center opened its doors to the public, “with the goal of enriching the community and lives of individual citizens through the arts,” Harrington says.
So, what does it offer?
Harrington says it schedules a “robust portfolio” of arts and culture programming, and invites area residents to check out the Concert Series, gallery exhibits and First Tuesday receptions, speaker series, poetry nights and many other events.
The center offers a discount on arts education offerings to anyone ages 62 and older. Upcoming fall arts classes include painting, ceramics, drawing, jewelry making and photography.
“We also work with the Hillsboro Community Senior Center to offer painting classes in their facility which are extremely popular and geared specifically toward seniors,” Harrington says. “In the past, we’ve also had groups from retirement communities attend events like our concert performances and arrange transportation to make them even more accessible.”
But she emphasizes that the Walters is an “all ages” facility. “We really want Walters to be a place where everyone feels welcome and excited to engage in the arts,” Harrington says.
In a city the size of Hillsboro, having a thriving arts scene means catering to a wide range of interests. Harrington says she feels the Walters is a “centerpiece” of the city’s growing arts and culture scene.
“The arts have a special ability to bring people together and this facility offers our community a downtown hub for a wide variety of cultural experiences,” she says. “Whether you’re taking a ceramics class for the first time, experiencing great live music in our concert series, or joining us for Family Art Night or First Tuesday, we invite people to think of us as their creative home — a place to connect with neighbors and find new inspiration.”
This fall, plan to see “a diverse range of cultural and musical influences, from emerging Northwest talents to Grammy-award winning artists with a national following,” Harrington says of the upcoming concert series. Concerts often sell out, and she encourages buying your tickets early.
In general, the concert series features everything from classical, bluegrass and Latin jazz, to country, folk and hip hop.
“If you walk through our building this summer, you might find 6-year-olds taking camps in mixed media or fiber art, across the hall from seniors participating in an ‘experimental acrylics’ class,” Harrington says. “Another night, you’ll find people spread out on our lawn with blankets and lemonade for a storytelling picnic, or visiting with an artist during a First Tuesday reception. We love that every week is a new ‘choose your own arts adventure’ in our building.”
Harrington says the building’s history, beauty and diversity of programming make it a special place.
“The building was created by a dedicated, passionate group of Hillsboro residents coming together to do something extraordinary as a community, and that spirit lives on in the Walters and its current mission to serve the community as an arts center,” she says.