Ojai, California is an art-centric city. The beautiful scenery encourages creativity and the culture of the city itself also bolsters the creative spirit. The downtown area full of galleries, the centrally located Ojai Valley Museum, and the robust events calendar reflects a value and respect for the arts.
Museums and Art Centers
The Ojai Art Center focuses on eight different disciplines of art: art, dance, film, literary, music, photography, theatre, and youth. The Art Branch features a gallery that is open Tuesday through Sunday. Pieces in the gallery are created by local and national artists. Most exhibits run one or two months so there is always something new to see. The Center also hosts an annual Art on the Park every Memorial Day weekend. The juried fine art show provides artists a place to sell their art and is free to attend.
The Ojai Valley Museum showcases the history, culture, and art of the Ojai Valley. The museum was founded in 1966 and includes a museum, research library, and visitor center. The museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The current exhibit is titled Turning Corners. It features the work of 60 local artists spanning over multiple types of mediums. The museum is open late on the third Friday of each month for live museum, artist demonstrations, an opening reception, or a craft opportunity.
The Ojai Studio Artists Tour is a highlight on the events calendar each October. The event requires free tickets and it gives visitors a chance to see the inner workings of more than 70 artists’ studios. Artists on the tour specialize in paint, photography, glass work, collage, clay, stone, and digital projection. Many of the artists are eager to share information about their craft with visitors. The 2023 event will be held October 7-9. Wear comfortable shoes; many of the galleries are downtown but some are further afield in secluded canyons. If you start at the Ojai Valley Museum, you will get a chance to see art from all the artists on the tour. It is a great opportunity to scope out which artists you like and plan your route to their galleries.
Has Ojai spurred your creative juices? Try a workshop or class while in town:
- The Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts offers workshops for a fee. Upcoming workshops include a Day of the Dead painting class, a carving and burnishing clay workshop, and abstract painting techniques using acrylic on canvas. The center also presents exhibitions and performances.
- Firestick Pottery is a community studio that welcomes ceramic artists of all skill levels. The studio and gallery are open daily and offer free guided tours. “Play with Clay” workshops are held daily. If you like one of the pieces you create, the bisque firing, glazing, and high-firing can be completed for you. There is also an option to return at a later date to complete the glazing process yourself. Reserve a spot as class size is limited.
- Contemporary jewelry making and ceramic workshops are coordinated once a month through the OVA Arts Gallery. The gallery is open daily and features original fine visual arts, custom jewelry, and contemporary crafts. OVA also hosts a monthly event with live music on third Fridays in conjunction with the Ojai Valley Museum.
Ojai solidified its commitment to the arts in 2003 when the City Council passed the Public Art Ordinance. Essentially, the ordinance directs private and public development projects to designate “Two Percent for the Arts.” Because of this, there are more than 40 works of public art on display within a five-mile radius. The Downtown Tour highlights 18 works of art and can be walked in approximately one-and-a-half hours. Tours that are best done with a vehicle include the East City Tour, West City Tour, and Along the Way Tour. Maps can be found on the Public Art Tours website and at the visitor’s center, library, museum, and many shops and restaurants.
There are far too many galleries in Ojai to list them all. Here is a sample of what you will find:
Dan Schulz Fine Art exclusively focuses on the work of Dan Schulz who was named the “Best Artist in Ojai” the year after his gallery opened. He is best known for landscapes, paintings of figures outdoors, and portrait work.
- Canvas and Paper is a non-profit space that hosts thematic and single artist exhibits. They feature paintings and drawings from the 20th century and earlier.
- The Lavender Inn has photography throughout the interior of the inn and in the gardens. That is right! You do not even have to leave the inn to see art. The innkeeper is a photographer and most of the large canvases along the garden walls are close-ups taken right in the inn’s garden.