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Museum Still Seeking a Home

March 31, 2000|JOSH KARP

Maria Dessornes remembers when the Conejo Valley Art Museum had a home.

The museum, which began in a storefront at the then Janss Mall in 1978, held local art exhibits each month and housed its own small collection of sculptures, paintings and other works by local artists.

"It was very exciting, especially for the artists," said Dessornes, 62, museum president.

"It was great to see the faces of people that came in and got to see the art and appreciate what we were doing. It was a real accomplishment."

But since the museum left the mall in 1995 as the shopping center was being refurbished, it has yet to find a place to call its own. Museum officials have looked at a dozen potential sites. But none of the property owners want to sell, and leasing for the museum would be too expensive, Dessornes said.

Meanwhile, the museum's artworks sit in storage.

The arts community wants the museum to find a home because there is no other museum with its own collections in the Conejo Valley, said Margaret Travers, a board member of the Thousand Oaks Community Gallery in Newbury Park. The gallery showcases temporary art exhibits.

"There is definitely a need for another gallery space in the Conejo Valley," Travers said. "I think the Conejo Valley can certainly support it. We have so many artists, so we could use another space where artists can exhibit their work."

The Conejo Valley Art Museum made an offer in November to purchase from the city the 401 Hillcrest North Building, which formerly served as City Hall and was last occupied in 1988.

Museum officials proposed to pay $1,000 per month and pay year-end lump sums from grants and donations over a 10-year period to cover an estimated $4 million to $5 million price tag. But the city, which prefers to own the building, has other potential tenants, including the Conejo Recreation and Park District. The city would like to collect between $64,500 and $74,250 in monthly rent.

"Any groups that are trying to provide something for the community, we're sympathetic for, especially if it's a positive thing like an art museum," Deputy City Manager Jim Friedl said. "But right now, to be responsible, we're talking to people that can pay the fair market value for those facilities."

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