PICTURED: Adri Howe outside the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard. Photo by Luis Chavez

by Emily Dodi

After being shuttered for more than a year, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum (CIMM) is filled with the sound of visitors and volunteers again, and that’s just how Executive Director Adri Howe likes it.

“It just really changes the dynamic inside the museum and that’s what museums are all about . . . people laughing and hearing kids. I’ve been enjoying it immensely.” 

That’s not to say that Howe didn’t keep herself busy during the pandemic. Over the past 15 months, she’s helped to improve CIMM’s galleries, which are filled with the museum’s amazing art collection. She has also led the way in expanding its online programming, including the ongoing speaker series as well as a digital Kids Club. Looking back on 2020, Howe says, “With all the negative, there is a positive.” The lockdown opened her eyes to new possibilities; namely, reaching even more people than ever via the Internet.  “There is so much we have to share. We’re not limited to people in the vicinity. We can reach kids, like in Kansas, who have never even seen the ocean.”  

That’s at the heart of everything Howe does — seeing what’s possible for people . . . and for horses. Because in addition to being the executive director of the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, Howe is also the president of the board and executive director of California Coastal Horse Rescue, based in Ojai. 

“You might say I have a surf-n-turf kind of life,” Howe says with a laugh. “Not shrimp and steak, of course, but the Maritime Museum and horses.”

Both passions can be traced back to Howe’s childhood. She grew up in a family of boaters and that experience has inspired her to think up new ways to engage and educate visitors about mankind’s history with the sea, including all the good and bad that entails. She recently created a navigation exhibition, which is not only the museum’s very first touchscreen exhibit, but also Howe’s first as a curator.

As for her other passion, “I have always loved horses, from the moment I knew they existed.” Howe remembers that when she was 6, one of her friends was taking horseback riding lessons and she desperately wanted to take them, too. When she was 7 she woke up to a magical Christmas morning. “On the Christmas tree there was an envelope written in my father’s hand. It said that I was going to go to the Eaton Canyon Riding Club.” 

As the years went by and her love of horses deepened, Howe realized something: “Riding was great, but it was just about <em>being</em> with them.”

When she grew up and went to the University of California, San Diego, she rode less and less. Years later, when Howe moved to Ventura County, she “wanted that connection again.” Having worked in the nonprofit sector for more than a dozen years, it seemed inevitable that she would find a worthy cause that champions horses. She did just that, almost by accident. 

About 13 years ago, Howe was working with the Horticulture Society at the Ventura County Fair when she wandered around the agricultural building and found the California Coastal Horse Rescue booth. Howe signed up to be a volunteer and, fast forward 13 years, today she is the executive director of the nonprofit organization that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and refuge. 

“It’s all about the horses,” Howe says, adding that California Coastal Horse Rescue takes in horses found in many different situations — from horses that have been rescued from dangerous conditions to those surrendered by loving families who simply cannot care for them any longer. Whatever the case, CCHR gives horses all the love and care in the world, in hopes that they can be placed in happy forever homes, or, as Howe says lovingly, “to see their big old butts walking down the road to their new home.” 

Howe is quick to point out that horses give much more to people than they get in return. “The innate beauty of a horse is that you don’t need to speak to them, but we tell them everything. Horses know.” She tells one story of a volunteer who was grieving a terrible loss. “She was leaning against a stall and [a horse named] Bridge came over and put his head on her shoulder.” The woman closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him. “He just knew.”

When asked about her work for both the Channel Islands Maritime Museum and the California Coastal Horse Rescue, Howe’s answer is simple. “I love them.” She also loves the people she works with, the volunteers who keep things running, who show up day after day to give of themselves — just like Howe.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum, 3900 Bluefin Circle, Oxnard, 805-984-6260, cimmvc.org

California Coastal Horse Rescue, 805-649-1090, www.calcoastalhorserescue.com.