Em Johnson

co-EXECUtive director

Em joined Blue Sky Center in 2016 with a vision to challenge traditional community development methods. She envisions building capacity in the Cuyama communities through creative placemaking and grassroots entrepreneurial empowerment. Her role at Blue Sky Center has led to a focus on developing Blue Sky’s business plan through creative placemaking strategies. Em holds an M.B.A. in Social Entrepreneurship and Strategic Leadership from Antioch University in Santa Barbara, CA, and a B.A. in Arts Administration from Drury University.



Jack Forinash 

co-executive director

Prior to joining the team full time in 2018, Jack Forinash served Blue Sky Center for two years as an organizational development consultant. Jack brings to New Cuyama over a decade of rural development experience, with a focus on affordable housing, nonprofit finances, organizational transparency, and research. As a leader in conscientious design/build ethos, he brings empathy and consideration to the practice of applied arts, architecture, and good old-fashioned fun.



Elise Dixon

food action coordinator

Elise came to the Cuyama Valley with a passion to improve healthy food access in struggling economies. Her work at Blue Sky Center involves developing culinary arts and nutritional programming for the youth in the valley, while working with the community to create a more resilient local food system. She’s previously worked as research assistant studying grassroots community development. Elise holds a B.A. in Environmental Sustainability and Urban Planning from the University of Virginia.



Ryan Flanagan

development coordinator

Changing gears from living in Maine, Ryan joined Blue Sky Center with aims to create a more vibrant future given the shifting political and social climates in America. Ryan’s technical background plays a key role into his work creating efficient internal processes as the organization expands and develops new partnerships. Ryan holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Maine.



Matthew Simeone

Rural Community designer

Matthew joined Blue Sky Center with the mission to use design as a tool to improve communities whose voice isn’t always heard. His current work with the organization includes housing research and advocacy and facilities design/management. Before moving to the Cuyama Valley, Matthew served two years in the Peace Corps as a design-builder in rural Panama working on housing and environmental infrastructure projects. Matthew holds a B.S. in Architecture from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he also worked with the American Institute of Architects Foundation.



Julia Warner

Rural Community designer

A Los Angeles native, Julia migrated to the Cuyama Valley utilizing her skills as a designer to build capacity at Blue Sky Center in Creative Placemaking and Housing focus areas. Julia holds an M.F.A. in Graphic Design from Otis College of Art & Design and a B.A. in Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Julia has a diverse background of art and design, having also studied furniture making at the Penland School of Crafts and participated in DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah. She has professional experience as a freelance designer, adjunct studio teacher, and independent book publisher, with a focus on design as a public interest tool.



Board of Directors

Chris Cohen, President

Attorney & Partner
Sustainable Law Group

Eric Junker

Artist, designer, Entrepreneur
USC Roski School of art & design

David Kietzman

Chief engagement officer & partner
Momentum solutions team

Cecelia Sullivan, Treasurer

Director of Finance
Landmark Global, a bpoSt company

Dr. Paul Chounet

Retired / Former superintendent
Cuyama Joint Unified School District





Bolthouse Farms

Bolthouse Properties

Cuyama Orchards

Dipaolo Foundation

Duncan Family Farms

E&B Natural Resource

The Fund for Santa Barbara

McCune Foundation

Northfork Vineyard

Pacific Standard Magazine

Santa Barbara Office of Arts & Culture

Santa Barbara Foundation

Santa Barbara Pistachio Company

Squire Foundation

Sunridge Nurseries

Zannon Family Foundation