PICTURED: “Green Volkswagen, East Hollywood,” by Jonathan Michael Castillo, on exhibit at the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks, which reopens on April 9.

by Emily Dodi 

Spring is in the air and so is something else. Could it be excitement, hope, anticipation? While COVID-19 is still very much a reality, there is a sense that we are returning to some kind of normalcy. That includes the reopening of some arts and culture venues throughout Ventura County. 

Since March 2020, when brick and mortar locations shut their doors due to the pandemic, museums and galleries have found creative ways to engage the public. From posting exhibitions and art classes online to hosting outdoor events, they not only remained relevant; they reminded us how valuable art really is.  

Starting in April, many of them will be going back to what they love and do best: opening the doors of their galleries to the public. 

It won’t be completely back to normal, of course, but even with mask mandates, capacity limitations, shortened hours, reservations required (in some cases) and other health and safety rules in place, it still feels like something to cheer about. Until life really gets back to normal, it would be wise to do one’s homework by phoning a museum or checking its website for the latest visitor’s information. 

Some venues, like Studio Channel Islands, are offering timed visits that must be reserved online, while some of the more intimate spaces, such as the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, ask that visitors call ahead to make sure space is available. Both the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts and Studio Channel Islands, as well as the Santa Paula Art Museum, have already reopened to the public.   

The Ojai Valley Museum of Art is set to reopen on Friday, April 2 with their new exhibit, Ojai Eye: Master Photographers. Channel Islands Maritime Museum and California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) will be reopening on Friday, April 9. 

When you ask the people who make museums run, the excitement of reopening is palpable. “We at CMATO feel very strongly that the arts play a role in helping society understand trauma, to make meaning of difficult times in our history and to help us reimagine a brighter future. This has been the driving force behind our reopening: to remain a place where the public can find refuge, solace and inspiration when life feels difficult and uncertain,” says Roya Alt, director of CMATO. “Through this most challenging moment in history, CMATO is resolute in our commitment to enriching the lives of people in our region through the visual arts. The arts are essential!”

As of now, performing arts venues have not been given the go-ahead to reopen. In anticipation of that day, however, a list of safety tips has gone viral. (Thank you, Melissa Elam Baffa). Most of them apply to visiting a museum, too. Aside from the standard safety protocols, the tips include some very important reminders. To name a few: “Be kind. Look, it’s been awhile. We’re gonna be a little rusty. … Have fun. You’re been waiting for this moment for more than a year — so enjoy the f*** out of it.”

Those are words to live by, even after we get back to “normal.” 

Museums currently open or opening soon

Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Road, Upper Ojai, 805-646-3381,
www.beatricewood.com. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 

California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks
350 W. Hillcrest Dr., Second Level (The Oaks Mall), Thousand Oaks, 805-405-5240,
cmato.org. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, noon-6 p.m. starting April 9.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum
3900 Bluefin Circle, Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, 805-984-6260,
cimmvc.org. Reopening April 9.

Mullin Automotive Museum
1421 Emerson Ave., Oxnard, 805-385-5400, mullinautomotivemuseum.com. Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. starting April 9; advanced tickets required. Semi-private tours on Thursdays by appointment.

Ojai Valley Museum
130 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 805-640-1390,
www.ojaivalleymuseum.org. Friday, 1-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. starting April 2.

Santa Paula Art Museum
117 N. Tenth St., Santa Paula, 805-525-5554,
www.santapaulaartmuseum.org. Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, noon-4 p.m.

Studio Channel Islands
2222 E. Ventura Blvd, Camarillo, 805-383-1368,
studiochannelislands.org. Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.