The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks is on the verge of closing without immediate large donations, museum officials say.
Nancy Chappell, chair of the museum’s board, said Thursday that due to the pandemic, the nonprofit has endured extensive revenue losses primarily because it could no longer hold fundraising events.
Unless the museum receives at least $250,000 in donations at once, it will close June 19, Chappell said. A $250,000 infusion would cover the museum’s operating budget for a year, she said.
“Without significant financial support from the community and major private benefactors… impending closure is unfortunately the only course forward,” she said.
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The museum was established in 2009 and began exhibits in 2016 when it moved into a former Taco Bell building in downtown Thousand Oaks owned by the city.
It quickly outgrew the small space and in 2018 moved to its current, larger site in The Oaks mall, 350 W. Hillcrest Drive.
Museum officials had long hoped to establish a permanent home downtown, but plans never came to fruition.
Chappell said the museum’s primary expenses are the costs of putting on exhibits and paying the salaries of one full-time employee, executive director Roya Alt, and four part-time employees. Board members are volunteers.
According to the museum’s 2020 tax records, Alt worked an average of 30 hours a week and had reportable compensation of $33,300.
Chappell declined to say how much rent the nonprofit pays at the mall.
She said the museum received some emergency COVID funding from the city and the federal government, but not enough to keep its doors open in the long term.
“It allowed us to get through the pandemic,” she said.
Thousand Oaks Mayor Bob Engler said Thursday the museum’s closure would be a loss to the community.
“It’s a sad situation,” he said. “I’m hopeful they can raise the funds to stay in business because they’re a valued part of Thousand Oaks.”
Engler said the amount the city gave the museum was about $25,000. He said he didn’t think the city could give it any more.
“I would encourage everyone in town if they have the interest and the wherewithal to contribute to that organization because they are doing good work,” he said.
Chappell said the museum’s board and staff are proud of what they’ve accomplished, including 16 exhibitions since 2016 drawing 40,000 visitors annually.
“We’ve brought to the community some beautiful, high quality, engaging visual arts experiences, so, of course, we’ll be sad to not be able to do that anymore,” she said.
Cristina Farias, 23, of Camarillo, one of the museum’s gallery attendants, said Thursday she was stunned upon learning of its impending closure.
“It’s been a pleasure working here,” she said. “We do a great service to the community and families, and it’s devastating to hear that we probably have to close.”
Tara O’Gorman, 26, of Newbury Park, another gallery attendant, said shuttering the museum would not only be a loss for Thousand Oaks, but for all of Ventura County.
“It’s really unfortunate,” she said. “There aren’t many art opportunities here or in the county in general, so I’ve always appreciated this place.”
O’Gorman said it’s been exciting working at the museum, “because we show a lot of really amazing artists not just locally but from around the world,” she said. “So, it will be upsetting to not have it here anymore.”
Other museums in Ventura County have also closed in recent years.
The California Oil Museum in Santa Paula, located in the original Union Oil Company headquarters, shuttered in September because of a lack of funding. But a message on its telephone says it hopes to re-open later this year.
Oxnard’s downtown Carnegie Art Museum closed indefinitely in June 2019a causality of the city’s budget cuts.
Those interested in immediately donating to the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks can call Chappell at 805-796-0566 or email her at [email protected].
More information about the museum can be found on its website, cmato.org.
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.
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