By Bianca Byrd and Carlos Garcia
The Museum of Ventura County has appointed Carlos Ortega as its new Chief Curator. With over two decades of museum experience, Ortega will play a vital role in bridging the past, present, and future by fostering an understanding and appreciation of history. His official start date at the Museum of Ventura County was May 1st. This year, the museum is celebrating 150 years of its establishment.
Ortega is thrilled to begin this new journey. “I’ve had the privilege of working with diverse communities around the world, including the Gabrielino Tongva community here in California. I brought their stories to life at places like the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) and Rancho Los Cerritos. Those experiences honed my skills in storytelling and community engagement, skills I’m eager to put to work at the Museum of Ventura County,” Ortega said to VIDA Newspaper.
When he was younger, Ortega mentioned he felt unwelcomed in museums but through his college course in Museum Studies, and in working at MOLAA, he realized how museums could be “agents of community support and change. The Museum of Ventura County, with its rich Chumash cultural heritage, abundant resources, and diverse stories, presents an exciting opportunity to continue this work,” Ortega expresses to VIDA Newspaper.
Throughout his 11 years at MOLAA, Ortega also organized over 40 international exhibitions and developed various community programs and educational activities. More recently, he served as the Curator for Rancho Los Cerritos Museum & Historic Site in Long Beach, California, where he elevated the museum’s profile through the creation of community-based exhibitions and inclusive programming.
Ortega sees the Museum of Ventura County as more than just a museum. He describes it as, “a living, breathing testament to our past, present, and future. Like many institutions, we acknowledge an imperfect past where we sometimes perpetuated historically inaccurate narratives.”
Ortega also said to VIDA Newspaper that “every exhibition is a journey, an adventure filled with visual, emotional, and inspirational experiences. His mission is to “bring Ventura County’s rich and varied history to light by working hand-in-hand with the community” in hopes to explore, learn, and celebrate shared history together.
This role is particularly significant as the Museum prepares to kick-off the County’s 150th Anniversary year celebration this Friday, June 23rd, further underscoring the importance of fostering a sense of cultural identity and heritage within the region.
“Now, as we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we’re committed to broadening our perspectives to better reflect our community’s diverse experiences. Our aim is to be the heartbeat of Ventura County’s culture and history, a place where we honor our past, engage with our present, and actively shape our future,” Ortega said to VIDA Newspaper.
For the upcoming celebration, there will be food trucks, games, live music, and insightful speakers from 5:30 pm to 8 pm at the Museum of Ventura County. This event will also include the launching of three new exhibitions, each revealing aspects of art, history, and everyday life in Ventura County.
Ortega welcomes the public to share their input about the types of future exhibitions they would like to see at the MVC by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The public is also invited to visit the museum at 100 E. Main Street, in downtown Ventura, Thursdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. phone number (805) 653-0323. The museum is free to the public with lots of parking spaces available.