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Dana gets new director and long-awaited cultural center opens

Robin Bogue was destined to become involved with the newly opened Dana Cultural Center, so it only makes sense she now heads the nonprofit Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos (DANA), which for nearly two decades has been at the helm of restoring the historic adobe and preserving the acreage it sits on, looking to eventually transform the property into a living history park and museum.

Bogue’s father rode horses on the Dana Adobe property east of Highway 101 overlooking the Nipomo foothills long before any restoration work began at the site, she said, and was also raised in the area. He also attended Nipomo Elementary, and the family has ancestral ties to the Dana family.

“When I came in for the (job) interview, I literally had photos off my parents’ wall in their hallway of ancestors to the Dana Adobe and of Nipomo, of the area,” Bogue said, adding she is a fourth generation Californian and her children are fifth generation.

“When I walked in, (the board members) were looking at me as if to say, ‘What is that in her arms?’ I had these photographs,” Bogue explained with a laugh, “and I was walking and I thought, ‘Did I clean the dust off?’ … That interview was so casual and friendly and went so well. When I left, I said to myself, ‘Yes, that is my vision. I want to be there.’”

Prior to taking the position as DANA director, Bogue owned and ran her own winery in Santa Barbara County for more than a decade, which she sold several years ago, and had spent the past couple years substitute teaching, also in neighboring Santa Barbara County.

“I felt very comfortable when I saw the ad and applied,” said Bogue, a Nipomo resident, about DANA’s need to replace longtime Executive Director Marina Washburn, who had been with the nonprofit almost since its inception and recently left the organization for new adventures.

“I just really felt like that’s where I am going.” Since 1999, DANA has been working tirelessly to fully restore the 179-year-old Dana Adobe—the former home of Nipomo founders Capt. William G. and Maria Josefa Dana—which has since been achieved. The public can take docent-led tours of the adobe on Saturdays and Sundays for a small donation. School field trips are also now available and include activities such as tortilla or brick making classes. Field trips cost $7 a student.

“It’s all come together now,” DANA Board President Rudy Stowell said about the nonprofit recently realizing its dream of opening the Dana Cultural Center in mid-May, along with restoration of the historic adobe and other planned site improvements. “It’s been a long time coming.”

A groundbreaking for the multi-use facility was held at the site two years ago. The brand-new building sits just south of the adobe and houses a commercial kitchen, administrative offices, walls perfect for displaying art, gallery/museum space that’s also suited for lectures/small events and a bevy of large, picture windows.

“The first comment that everyone makes is that they love the building,” Stowell said. “It’s got this big volume in it and this nice feel. What we really concentrated on was having these panoramic views out of these large windows.”

He added, “People usually walk in and they look up, say, ‘Wow. This is nice.’ And then they look at the views and say, ‘Yeah, those are your million dollar views out there.’ People really like the space.”

The board is still working out a finalized plan for how to fully utilize the new building that came in at a smaller square footage than originally anticipated due to budget constraints. DANA only had limited grant money and private donations to work with. There was no wiggle room and project costs increased over time, as construction tends to do, Stowell said.

“It couldn’t have run over budget because we didn’t have the money,” he explained. “We just had to make it work. One thing we did not want to cut on that we had to find a way to come in on budget was the kitchen. To support the organization, you need to come out and have food and drink, and dinners.”

The Cultural Center is available to rent for private events, such as weddings or art showings, and will also be used by DANA for quarterly events, like Nov. 11’s Taste of Nipomo. The organization would like to have monthly events in the space but there just isn’t the staff to support such an endeavor at this time, Bogue said.

During the next several months, the organization plans to focus efforts on restoring native landscape around the Cultural Center, where a paved parking lot now fronts the new building, establishing gardens around the facility, as well as an interpretive Chumash area, and more.

“As I have said a million times and people are probably tired of hearing it, the organization restored the adobe and now we are restoring the rancho,” Stowell said of DANA’s efforts on the property. “We want it to be the place where Nipomo gathers.”

Planned work also includes a project to construct an event barn between the adobe and the Cultural Center, as well as a shade structure near the outdoor Chumash interpretive site. Construction of trails throughout the site and a bridge across the creek that spans the property is also on tap.

“By springtime, there will be more buildings built. More trails will have been built. The barn should be started,” Bogue said. We are planning a big fundraiser, barn-raising project. That is hopefully going to be our big token project next year and get people aware. We want to put brands on the (barn) walls from local people … have people really connected to it.”

Both Stowell and Bogue encouraged individuals to come check out the newly opened Dana Cultural Center, where visitors can take a step back in time for a bit, learn about the area’s history and also support the past, or people can just peruse the art on the walls and enjoy the lovely views.

“I think they need to come out now and again in the spring to see the differences,” Bogue said. “Come and see what we have done, and then come back, see where it is at. That is what I have been telling people. You have to come in, see. It is amazing.”

There is a $5 admission fee to the Dana Cultural Center for non-members. Admission is free for members. DANA is supported solely through grants, which will be fewer now that most of the site’s construction is complete, private donations and memberships. The organization is in a transitionary period and has been very reliant on grants in the past, Stowell said, noting membership is a big percentage of what it takes to run the operation and that the group is always looking for new members.

“We took on a lot here,” he said. “You can see we are going to have a bigger water bill, a bigger electric bill, more insurance, all of it. Grants are great if you get them. It’s icing on the cake. (But) at a certain point, we are going to be built out and won’t be getting grants.”

The property sits at 671 S. Oakglen Ave. and served as a central point for the state’s first official mail route between Los Angeles and Monterey. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a California Historical Landmark.

For more information, visit www.danaadobe.org or call (805) 929-5679.



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