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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 12:30 pm | Fair 62º


Construction Starting Soon on Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center

Tribal leaders reveal design for facility planned for 6.9 acres on Highway 246


Tribal leaders unveiled the design for a museum to capture the history and share the culture of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, with construction starting soon to make the long-time dream reality.

Plans for the 14,000-square-foot Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center were revealed Monday at the reservation's Tribal Hall, where representatives of local communities including Santa Maria, Buellton, Solvang, Lompoc and Santa Barbara city councils received a peek.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs on this project,” said tribal chairman Kenneth Kahn. “We’re happy today to be able to announce we will be breaking ground on a $32-million, state-of-the-art Chumash Museum and Cultural Center.

“It’s going to be not only an opportunity for the tribe to tell its story, but it’s going to be a common place, a common place where we can all come together and share with each other and the community.” 

Groundbreaking is scheduled to start before the end of the year, with heavy equipment expected to move onto the site in November, Kahn added. Construction will take approximately two years on the 6.9-acre project site, off Highway 246. 

The tribe applied to take the land into federal trust in 2002, with plans to create the museum.

Local groups have opposed tribal efforts to expand the reservation through fee-to-trust, in part because projects by the sovereign nation don’t have to meet state and federal planning and land-use rules. 

“Fourteen years ago we began a project, we began a vision of the tribe to build a museum and in the next 24 months we’re going to build exactly what we said we were going to build and we’re very proud of it,” Kahn said.

During the lengthy fee-to-trust process, tribal leaders hired Kathleen Conti to serve as director of museum programs, research and resources. A 14-member advisory committee began working to build the collection of artifacts and cultural objects.

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Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, talks about plans for the Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center, which will start construction later this year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A key step involved traveling to other sites, including one trip taking them to five museums in three states and meeting with multiple curators, Conti said.

“It was exhausting, but amazing,” Kahn said from a seat in the audience.

A collection once made up of a handful of items now boasts some 20,000 pieces, including artifacts, cultural objects, baskets, paintings, and vintage photographs that tell the powerful story of Chumash life, Conti said. 

In 2014, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially placed the land into federal trust — deeming it part of the reservation — the Chumash hired Seattle-based Jones & Jones to begin the designing the facility.

That design, revealed Monday, includes a welcome house, a heritage house, a traditional tule house, a Samala language house and a tomol house, creating a small village to tell the Chumash story through exhibits and programs. 

The architects came with the design after “a lot of workshops, I mean a lot of workshops,” architect Johnpaul Jones said. He served as lead design consultant for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

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An artist’s concept shows the entry to the Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center, featuring a traditional welcome house.  (Contributed photo)

“Behind all of it was the Chumash culture, it’s the driving force behind it,” Jones said. “So it’s very unique. There’s no other museum like this on the West Coast or anywhere.”

Through research, he said, they learned about round ceremonial buildings in additional to smaller houses. 

“That’s where the visitors should start,” he said, noting the museum’s round entrance meant to replicate a key part of Chumash heritage.

A 3.5-acre cultural park adjacent to the museum will feature an amphitheater to nurture storytelling as well as a living village. 

Landscaping plans include plants Chumash gathered for food, medicine and making items used in their daily lives. A basketry and cordage garden will highlight the plants used for weaving highly specialized baskets. 

The Chumash have named Armstrong Associates of Santa Barbara as the general contractor, with Summit Project Management of Culver City also involved.

“We’re proud of the team we’ve assembled,” Kahn said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

baskets and photos Click to view larger
Assorted artifacts, baskets and photos have been gathered for collection in the new Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center, which will soon start construction.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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