Chumash cultural center coming to Santa Ynez Valley

Oct 24, 2018

The same architect who helped design the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC is working on a new cultural center and museum coming to the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians announced this week construction is starting soon on a $32 million dollar project. The 14,000 square foot cultural center will be built on just under seven acres on Highway 246 in Santa Ynez. The land parcel is different from the tribe's 1,400-acre property known as Camp 4, which has garnered opposition from a group of Santa Ynez Valley residents over control of land uses.

“The uniqueness of the Chumash museum and cultural center is not only are we going to be able tell the story inside the museum, but the entire site is going to be representing the Chumash culture and history of our tribes,” said Kenneth Kahn.

Kahn is the tribal chairman. He said it’s been about a 12-year-long process to officially add the property to the tribe’s reservation, a process called fee-to-trust. Once that was complete, the tribal government voted to allocate funds to pay for the project, and the design phase got underway.

The architect is JohnPaul Jones. In a video produced by the tribe, Jones describes the conceptual design of the center, which will start with a bell-shaped building evoking a Chumash structure made from tule grass.

“It's the welcomed place, it’s where the visitors come in and immediately they feel ‘this is different than what we've ever seen before,’” Jones said. “And that's an important thing in their culture, is that to welcome visitors. Secondly is the permanent exhibit gallery. That's where their message that spans thousands of years will be told.”

Also part of the building team is Armstrong Associates, which recently served as the general contractor of the new Moxie Museum—also knowns as the Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation—in Santa Barbara.

Kahn said the tribe expects it to take about two years to build the cultural complex in Santa Ynez.

“We’re excited to have an opportunity to have a world-class facility, for a draw and a compliment to other opportunities in the Valley,” Kahn said.

According to the tribe, the center will be one of the first LEED-certified tribal museums in the U.S.