News in art and culture from around Ventura County

Winners of the Ventura Land Trust art contest will have their works featured on

special stickers. (Photo submitted)

New VC landmarks

The Ventura County Cultural Heritage Program recently announced the designation of four new Ventura County Landmarks, Nos. 180-183, for 2021-22. The county’s newest designated landmarks include Bella Vista Ranch, McNell Ranch and Noble Oaks Estate, all in Ojai, and the Edgington Oxnard Oil Derrick on the Oxnard Plain. Bella Vista Ranch and McNell Ranch, Landmarks No. 180 and 181, were once part of a larger parcel purchased by Thomas R. McNell in 1890, and the surrounding orchards reflect the development of citrus as an important crop in the Ojai Valley during the late 19th century and early 20th century. McNell Ranch also features a Folk Victorian-style farmhouse built in 1890, while Bella Vista’s California Bungalow-style farmhouse dates from 1910.

Built in 1928 and designed by famed Southern California architect Harold E. Burkett, the Noble Oaks Estate (Landmark No. 182) retains almost all of its original construction materials and is a beautiful example of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. It is also significant for its association with Ojai developer John Burnham.

Landmark No. 183 is a steel oil derrick built between 1947 and 1962 over the El Rio No. 2 well, originally drilled in 1945. It is located on what was once the Edgington Oxnard Refinery, the last existing oil refinery in the Oxnard area which had one of the first oil wells on the Oxnard Plain.

According to a county press release, these properties received landmark designation due to “their scientific, educational, and cultural value in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of Ventura County.” The designation affords historic properties additional protections to ensure that they maintain their cultural heritage values, and may provide owners with land use and building code benefits as well as the opportunity to lower property taxes in exchange for investment in preservation.

More information on the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board, including detailed information on the new landmarks, can be found at

VLT legacy wall, art contest winners

The Ventura Land Trust has had a busy month. Despite extended closures of Harmon Canyon Preserve following winter storms, VLT staff have continued their work on road and trail repairs. In addition, the installation of the Harmon Canyon Preserve Legacy Wall has begun. Created by artist Tyronne McGrath and situated at the preserve trailhead, the iron artwork depicts plants and animals found in the Ventura hillsides. Handcrafted leaves commemorating donors will be added to the piece. In addition, the trailhead kiosk is getting new informational panels, made with the help of Willhouse Creative.

2023 marked VLT’s 20th anniversary, and in celebration the organization held an all-ages art context at the beginning of the year. Winners were announced on March 9.

The winner in the teen age group, 14-year-old Ada Tromans, also enjoys the distinction of being the overall winner of the contest. Her “California Hill Sunset” wowed judges with its depiction of California and Matilija poppies, rolling hills and a beautiful sunset. “I love hiking Harmon Canyon with my dogs and family when the wild flowers are blooming,” she wrote when submitting her entry.

Travis Dean Ethier Shields (“Dusk”) won in the adult age group while the kids age group winner was Anevay Yanez. Each artists’ work will be featured on a sticker, and Tromans’ design will be included on a special edition T-shirt. All entries will be displayed at VLT’s 20th Birthday Party, taking place in May.

Poetry Out Loud Winners

Congratulations to Sofia Noriega, winner of the Ventura County Poetry Out Loud contest held at Villanova School in Ojai on Feb. 15. She beat out fellow contestants Bella Lopez, Javan Salinas and Ishva Patel to land the top spot in the annual competition facilitated by the Ventura County Arts Council (VCAC). Noriega went on to compete in the state competition, which took place virtually on March 19.

Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide program initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. It was developed to advance spoken poetry among high school students and involves contestants reciting works before an audience. Ventura County students work with their English teachers and professional poets in preparation. Funding for Poetry Out Loud comes from California Arts Council grants, California Poets in the Schools and Sage Publications.

More information at

More kudos for Mullin

The Mullin Automotive Museum’s 1935 Voisin Type C25 Aérodyne was awarded “Best of Show” at the 28th Annual Amelia Concours D’Elegance, held at The Golf Club of Amelia Island, Florida, on Sunday, March 6. Merle Mullin, director of the Mullin Automotive Museum and wife of car collector Peter Mullin, was present to receive the award after the Aérodyne also won Best in Class, Pre-War French Coachwork earlier in the afternoon. The vehicle last won “Best of Show” at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance in 2011.

“Winning here at this amazing venue on this beautiful day on Amelia Island has been an A-plus experience for us,” Merle Mullin said upon accepting the award. “We were up against some serious contenders, so I am very honored that the judges chose us to win.”

VC Employee art show winners

The Ventura County Arts Council (VCAC) honored 27 artists during a special reception and awards ceremony held on Friday, Jan. 13, for the 20th Annual County of Ventura Employee, Retiree and Family Art Show. First, second and third place winners, as well as two honorable mentions, were recognized in Youth (12 years and under), Teen (13-18), Amateur, Intermediate and Professional categories. In addition, Martin Flores, Jr. received the Art Education Award for his work, “The Smiler,” while Best of Show went to “Fireworks Lady” by Jofre Daulo.

Winners were chosen from among 189 works submitted by over 100 artists — one of the highest number of entries in the history of the show. Media included ceramics, crafts, drawings, fiber art, mosaics, paintings and more.

The reception took place in the Main Plaza of the Atrium Gallery in the Hall of Administration of the Ventura County Government Center in Ventura. Opening remarks were provided by Ventura County Executive Officer Sevet Johnson and VCAC Board Chairperson Carolyn Mullin.

Ventura County Arts and Culture Manager David Yoshitomi announced the winners, saying, “The level of talent and creativity connected to the county of Ventura team is so impressive, and it’s wonderful to see it all on display on the walls of the Government Center.”

— Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer