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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 6:46 am | Fair 50º


Dunes Center Workshop Dreams Up Vision for Future Home at Old Far Western Tavern

Guadalupe organization takes first step toward move to new building while also reimagining mission and exhibits


Approximately three dozen people ranging from ages 9 to 92 gathered in Guadalupe on Saturday to envision the future of the Dunes Center and its next home.

A workshop, dubbed “Nothing About You Without You,” brought participants together to plan for the museum’s proposed relocation to the beloved building that formerly belonged to the Far Western Tavern.

The long-time Guadalupe landmark relocated to Orcutt in 2012, leaving the two-story building at 895 Guadalupe St. empty. The building sits a few blocks from the Dunes Center’s current home in a renovated, but small, house.

The workshop marked “the first creative what-could-it-be, kind of dreaming” session, said Brianna Cutts, a museum planner from The Sibbett Group in San Anselmo.

“It seems like everybody’s engaged,” she said as participants chatted in the background. “It’s really imagining the vision for the museum and the new space.”

The goal is to restore the Far Western Tavern to house the Dunes Center, which focuses on the conservation and restoration of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes west of the city.

“The Far Western Tavern was a community gathering place here in Guadalupe,” executive director Doug Jenzen said. “We want to carry on that tradition into the future with a new space that everyone from our community can enjoy — a space that expresses the interests and values of our community.”

A new home also provided a chance to re-examine the Dunes Center’s mission and vision statements to potentially broaden the organization’s focus, he said.

While focused on nature education, Hollywood history buried in the sand — set pieces from pioneer filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent movie, The Ten Commandments — have become a key attraction and expanded the center’s focus.

“We’re already telling the stories that are much broader than just the dunes,” Jenzen said.

Equipped with ideas that arose from discussions during the workshop, Cutts will create a master plan and rendering for the new home.

Topics raised Saturday from attendees who came from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties included preservation of the dunes along with the movie set and the connection with Hearst Castle.

“It’s a big, cool, rich story so how do we pull that all together to make a place that people want to come to?” Cutts asked. “Museums are kind of dusty and boring, so how do we make this one enticing?”

To help inspire workshop participants, she brought along modeling clay to enable attendees to make a Pismo clam, fish tanks, tiny sphinx and more to represent future exhibits.

After touring the existing museum and hearing from Cutts, participants broke into three groups — one assessing what exhibits would be included and another assessing how the new bigger building should be used.

The third group took a broader view of the museum and its role in the community.

Three organizations joined forces to fund the workshop — the Edwin and Jeanne Woods Family Foundation, The Fund for Santa Barbara and ERG Resources — held at the Little House by the Park in Guadalupe.

“It’s fascinating that these three entities — the legacy of an old ranching family, a social and environmental justice organization and an energy company — have funded this,” Jenzen said. “What this tells you is that while those might seem like strange bedfellows at first glance, we have extremely broad support from a vast array of people.”

He said the timeline calls for the Dunes Center to move into the Far Western Tavern building within three to five years.

“Lots of wiggle room there because you never know what you’re going to find in the walls of an old building until you open them up,” Jenzen said.

At the Dunes Center’s gala in July, the organization plans to unveil another Ten Commandments set sphinx and reveal the plans for the Far Western Tavern.

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.

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