Proposed Art Museum to Take Place of Old Taco Bell

Supporters seeking $250,000 to renovate building next to Civic Center

While the opening of the California Museum of Art-Thousand Oaks is still years away, supporters are pursuing a more immediate goal: They’re setting up an interim location that will offer art exhibits and programs.

The temporary gallery and operations office will be at 1948 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., on Dallas Drive at the entrance to the Civic Arts Plaza. The permanent museum is planned for the same site.

As a nonprofit, the museum group will rent the 1,800-square-foot building—formerly The Wineyard and before that a Taco Bell—from the city for $1 a year.

“The city made it available to us as an interim museum because it is on the property and the visibility of it for the museum is perfect for our purposes of getting started,” Dick Johnson, chair of theCMA’s board of directors, said. “The city is extremely supportive of having the museum at the Civic Arts Plaza to join the performing arts center that’s there.”

In order to open the smaller museum, volunteers are working to raise at least $250,000 to cover startup costs, which include the renovation of the small building. Bill Mercer is the museum’s part-time director of operations and its only paid employee.

Among the planned improvements— most of which are cosmetic rather than structural—are fresh paint, drywall where art will hang and the removal of a counter used by Taco Bell. Contractors have been looking at the building and getting their bids together, Johnson said.

“Startup money is our most important project at the moment to get us up and running,” said Johnson, a former television news director and producer who served as the executive director of the Conejo Players Theatre for 33 years. “The project is certainly on course. We’re working to expedite the opening of the interim museum so that we can have a solid community presence as we move forward to building the permanent museum.”

About $10,000 has been raised for the museum thus far, he said.

“There’s interest but there’s also people that say, ‘What’s it going to cost?’ They want to have more details. We’re trying to get those details worked out.”

California Museum of Art-Thousand Oaks is the product of a 2008 study by the Conejo/ Las Virgenes Future Foundation, a group of civic-minded residents who identified the need for an art museum to serve residents from Calabasas to Newbury Park. In June 2010, a plan to locate the venue on the grounds of the civic center was approved by the Thousand Oaks City Council.

Supporters plan to create a venue to showcase all forms of art—including music and dance—and to host traveling exhibits like those that appear at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Huntington Library in San Marino.

Donations to CMA may be mailed to P.O. Box 4709, Thousand Oaks, CA 91359.