Ventura County lost one of its literary treasures when poet Jackson Wheeler died earlier this month after a battle with brain cancer. Born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains, he had a Southerner’s love and affinity for the rhythm of words that made him an especially gifted and inspiring poet. His body of work covered many topics — the rural South, homosexuality, the AIDS epidemic and even everyday life in Ventura County — with tremendous depth and sensitivity. He was a frequent contributor to the literary journals Askew and Solo (he co-edited the latter for many years) and a longtime curator and host of the Arcade Poetry Series at the Carnegie Art Museum. Wheeler also had a tremendous impact in the community as a social worker, first at ARC and later at the Tri-Counties Regional Center, where he helped create an independent living curriculum for people with developmental disabilities. The award-winning poet and author (whose third and final book, Was I Asleep, was released June 3) was an art lover and collector, a tremendous advocate for the arts, and a champion for the marginalized. He will be greatly missed.

In other art news . . .

COUNTY-WIDE
Several organizations in Ventura County were awarded money through the California Arts Council. Of the $15 million in grants given to nonprofits across the state in the 2016-17 fiscal year, nearly $170,000 was awarded to local organizations. The biggest winners were the Ventura County Arts Council and New West Symphony, but other grantees included both Ojai and Ventura Music Festivals, Studio Channel Islands Art Center, the Santa Paula Art Museum and Focus on the Masters. Programs funded range from those focused on artist engagement with the community and schools to professional development to jump-start programs for incarcerated youth and women.

OJAI
It’s been nearly three years since the Ojai Playhouse was shut down due to a water main break that flooded the venue and caused extensive damage. But owner Khaled Al-Awar — and the Ojai residents who loved and frequented the theater — won a victory this month when a Ventura County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled that Golden State Water was responsible for repairing the space. Damages have not yet been awarded, but plaintiffs are asking for $2 million for repairs, lost profits and attorney fees. More details will emerge after a June 26 hearing.

Congratulations to Roger Conrad, who received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award presented by the Ojai City Council. The artist, designer, engineer and teacher was an exhibition preparer at both the Ojai Valley Museum and Ojai Art Center, a longtime member of the Arts Commission and a former chairman of the Ojai Art Center’s photography branch.

OXNARD
The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum’s summertime “Full STEM Ahead!” events provide children ages 6-12 with the opportunity to work on projects involving science, technology, engineering or math. A Legos project was offered June 17, and on June 24, the focus will be on robotics and how the Navy/Seabees employ this branch of technology. Similar events will be planned throughout the summer. For more information, visit the museum online at www.history.navy.mil/content/history/museums/seabee.html.

THOUSAND OAKS
Thousand Oaks Reads has chosen News of the World by Paulette Jiles as this year’s One City One Book selection for 2017. This is the 11th year that the city has taken part in the national reading program, which began in 1998 with the aim to create citywide book discussion clubs. Hardback copies are available at Grant R. Brimhall Library in Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park Library. Special events are also planned for later in the year. For more information visit www.thousandoaksreads.org.

The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) has expanded its board of directors, welcoming Carla Blanco, Nancy Chappell and Richard Reitzell to the board in May. “We welcome them and consider the board fortunate to have them by our side as CMATO takes on its role as a major cultural resource in the community,” Director of Advancement Sandy Galin stated in a press release.

VENTURA
In 1967, nearly 100,000 people came together in San Francisco to ignite a cultural revolution. The Museum of Ventura County celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “ Summer of Love” with a series of events. Film screenings, concerts, lectures and two pop-up exhibits will take place throughout the summer. For details and full schedule, call the museum at 653-0323 or visit venturamuseum.org.

OPPORTUNITIES
Buenaventura Art Association:
A call for entry has been announced for an upcoming exhibit at Community Memorial Hospital July 16-Oct. 15. Life in the Wild will showcase works featuring wild and domestic animals. Entries accepted through Saturday, July 8. For more information, visit www.buenaventuragallery.org.

Camarillo Skyway Playhouse: Auditions for the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, will be held Aug. 6-10. Performances begin in October. For more information and to schedule an appointment, email Michael J. McGraw at mjmcgraw@skywayplayhouse.org.

Focus on the Masters: FOTM is looking for volunteers for its “For the Love of Art” fundraiser, which will take place in September. The first gala committee is on Thursday, June 22, at 11 a.m. at FOTM’s offices at 505 Poli St., Ventura. For more information, email Donna Granata at Donna@FocusOnTheMasters.com or visit www.focusonthemasters.com.

Ojai Art Center Theater: The theater is looking for a young man who can tap dance for its upcoming production of Anything Goes, onstage July 14-Aug. 13. If interested, contact Tracey Williams Sutton at tracelia@aol.com.

Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio: There’s still time to sign up for OYES summer camps for acting, theater and more. For schedule and more information, call 646-4300 or visit ojaiyes.org.

Santa Paula Art Museum: In conjunction with the California Oil Museum, the art museum will offer an art- and science-based Museum Exploratory Summer Camp July 31-Aug. 4 for children in grades K-5. For more information, call 525-5554 or email educator@santapaulaartmuseum.org.

Santa Paula Theater Center: Auditions for Becky’s New Car will be held on Saturday, July 1, and Monday, July 3. Performances Aug. 25-Oct. 1. For more information, call 525-4645 or visit www.santapaulatheatercenter.org.

Ventura County Writers Club: The club’s annual memoir contest is now open to writers of all levels. Original, first-person accounts of memorable events or experiences (1250 words or less) will be accepted through Aug. 15. For more information, call Sheli Ellsworth at 499-3490 or visit venturacountywriters.com.