April 16, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
The Ojai Valley Museum is requesting the city of Ojai allocate $50,000 in the next budget cycle to subsidize its maintenance, exhibits, outreach and utility costs. The Museum, which also houses the only official visitors’ center in Ojai, has been at its present location since 1997, when Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church sold the property. Between 1997 and 2005, the city funded the Museum to various degrees, depending on the Museum’s needs, until the city was no longer able to afford this expenditure after losing revenue it normally collects via bed tax from the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which had closed for renovations.
“It costs $21,000 per month just to keep us open,” says Museum president, Ann Scanlin. “We just went through a whole budget process, cut back. We’re on a bare-bones budget … We would continue to try to raise money, but we spend so much time fundraising we don’t have time for creative things. I don’t like to even think about the Museum closing. That would be a real tragedy.”
Although the city has not funded the Museum in approximately seven years, Scanlin remains optimistic.
“We are confident (of the city’s support). They give the Visitors Bureau $50,000 per year. We feel we do a lot for the city of Ojai, and that we are equally deserving,” says Scanlin.
“The Museum board and many of our supporters are here tonight to request the city’s help in keeping the Museum open during these difficult times,” said Museum trustee, Craig Walker, at the last Ojai City Council meeting. “We have struggled on our own for the passed few years. We have increased our membership, worked hard to maintain our donor base, and cut expenditures to the bone. Yet we are unable to close our budget gap. We urge you to give our funding request a high priority in your mid-year budget deliberations.”
“It is very difficult to get the support we need to stay afloat,” admits Scanlin. “We do a lot for the city that people don’t even know about.”
The Museum is housed in the former Saint Thomas Aquinas Chapel, the only building in Ojai on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the Museum is home to a research library, fireproof archives, a sculpture garden, rotating exhibits, art classes, a shop specializing in Ojai-related books and locally crafted products, guided weekly walking tours and an oral history committee. The Museum is run by one full-time director, one part-time administrative assistant, one part-time graphic designer and a number of volunteers.
“It’s no easy task to do what we do,” said Scanlin at the Council meeting. “We feel the Museum is worthy of the city’s financial support because we are the only museum in Ojai, and we do what we do very well, and no one else does what we do for this city in so many ways.”
“We have a big story to tell of all the people who make this valley a beautiful place to be, and what better place to do it than in the Museum?” commented Julie Tumamait-Stenslie at the meeting. “It’s the first place people go, it’s the first place I go when I travel, to see the cultural centers, the museums. It’s a beautiful spot with beautiful architecture behind it. Where it was once supported by the city, it should continue that way.”
“During all the turmoil around the world in the last 10 years, there’s been times when different regions in the world have had their museums pillaged and artifacts destroyed. I remember how all of us looked at that as how horrible it is. It really brings home how important protecting your legacy is,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp. “I really want to say that I really appreciate the Museum, and recognize how important it is.”
Council is expected to make its budget decisions this June.
Call 640-1390 to get involved with the Ojai Valley Museum or for more information.