Story last updated at 3:56 p.m. Thursday, November 21, 2002

Director of Pratt Museum stepping down
by Carey James
Staff Writer

After five years on the job, Michael Hawfield is stepping down from his position as director of the Pratt Museum.

Hawfield, who staff and board members say helped rebuild many bridges between the community and the museum after some rocky times, said he is leaving to pursue a more relaxing life as a writer.

"I have given the museum my unwavering loyalty and commitment for five years, but it is time now to pass the leadership torch to someone with fresh vision, a more forceful management style, and greater enthusiasm for the daily business of managing the personalities and infrastructure of this very special institution," Hawfield wrote in a prepared statement.

Though his last day working fulltime will be Friday, Hawfield said he doesn't intend to be a stranger to the museum, and will be on hand to help pass the reins to the next director.

Among Hawfield's accomplishments is his focus on the public image of the museum in the community. Museum board member Jan O'Meara said he leaves big shoes to fill.

"His community relations were absolutely outstanding," said O'Meara, adding that he re-established ties with the artist community as well as Homer's "old-timers." "He's been a wonderful spokesman for the museum."

From museum Curator of Collections Betsy Webb's perspective, Hawfield was also known for his ability to enable staff.

"We appreciated his trust in allowing all of us to be independent and fulfill our own vision," she said. "He allowed quite a bit of creative freedom."

Hawfield moved to Homer from Indiana to take the position of development coordinator for the museum and has written eight books, one of which is coming out next week. He said he plans to return to his literary pursuits, as well as some teaching opportunities in the coming months.

Hawfield was promoted to fill the position of executive director after a short time with the museum. He cited the constant fund-raising burden as one of the job's greatest challenges. With competition for nonprofit funding from the city and elsewhere getting tighter, Hawfield lobbied successfully for the museum to be considered a separate line item on the city's budget.

"If the city would return to traditional levels of funding (for the museum), it would go a long way, a very long way, toward helping the museum meet its financial challenges," he said.

During Hawfield's time with the museum, the Patrons of the Pratt Society formed, and many new programs were created, such as WHIZ Kids and the ever-popular remote-controlled wilderness cameras.

O'Meara said the museum will begin the search for a new director in coming weeks.

"We're all going to really miss him, but we're glad he's not leaving Homer," she said.

Carey James can be reached at cjames@homer