If there were a lifetime achievement award for local artists, we’d be quick to nominate Ruth Ayers Hofto. The work of this 102-year-old University Place resident is now on view at the Lakewood Historical Museum through June 12. Hofto was born in 1910 and grew up in Issaquah where she began painting at age six. A local butcher, impressed with one of her paintings of pansies, encouraged her early on: “He said, ‘I’m gonna give you a wiener. I’m gonna give you a piece of paper. Now go home and draw,'” she laughs in a phone conversation. And make art she did, over decades, taking classes with printmaker Bill Colby and others. Though Hofto would eventually take a 40-year break from painting, with the encouragement of friends she began showing her work again in 2007, at age 97, with an exhibit at the Lakewood Library.
Though a recent health problem has stalled her studio practice, Hofto has a smile in her voice as she talks about her art: paintings and woodcuts of landscapes, often featuring animals, reflect an interesting life and travels abroad (for instance, she painted Pierre Auguste Renoir’s house in France). She apologizes for the limited number of paintings she has to show in the “Artist’s Corner” of the Lakewood Museum – because most of her work has been sold. The artist’s graciousness and encouragement to others are an ongoing inspiration to those who meet her. A reception for Ruth Ayers Hofto will be held at the Lakewood Historical Museum, 6211 Mt. Tacoma Drive SW in Lakewood, on May 19 at 2 pm. Regular museum hours: Wed.-Sat. 12-4 pm. www.lakewoodhistorical.org