Team


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Em Johnson

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.

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Jack Forinash 

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.

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Ryan Flanagan 

operations manager

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.

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Melanie Shaw

Hospitality manager

Melanie Shaw is a longtime resident of the Cuyama Valley and loves all things hospitality. She brings to the team a wealth of knowledge about the region, experience from her most recent work as program coordinator for Cuyama Valley Recreation District, and a background in agriculture business management from Bakersfield College. Melanie is excited about taking on our hospitality initiatives and developing a space at Blue Sky Center for events and retreats that continue to benefit our surrounding townsites.

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Cecilia Guevara

food action coordinator

Cecilia came to this Valley from the Central Valley. She feels connected to Latinx communities and is here to serve and be a bridge in their access to food services and community building opportunities. Cecilia is here to share her stories generously and provide spaces for community members to speak on their needs. She has worked harvesting fruit in the Central Valley and with the USDA, as well as volunteer work with different Latinx organizations.

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Cameron Tillisch

development coordinator

Returning to his home state of California, Cameron linked up with Blue Sky Center in order to contribute to the economic development and food security of rural communities. He spent the last two years in an indigenous village in Panama while serving in the Peace Corps, where he helped with community organization, business development, and training farmers in sustainable agriculture methods. Prior, he managed farms in Humboldt, CA and Calca, Peru, and taught English abroad for three years in Peru, Korea, and Chile. He hopes to use his experience with intercultural exchange and integration in New Cuyama to form strong bonds between the people of the community and Blue Sky Center, while contributing new ideas centered on community, business, food systems, and agriculture. Cameron holds a B.A. in Communications from UC San Diego.

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Rimona Law

Rural Community designer

Having lived between and within rural spaces of Oregon, Washington, and North Carolina, Rimona comes to the Cuyama Valley committed to engaging students, families, and community through arts education and outreach. Prior to Blue Sky, Rimona has worked in a thrift-store-turned-art-museum, organized for a socially engaged arts conference, shelved library books, DJ-ed community radio, and edited independent publications for, by, and with young people.

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Sam Ihrig

Rural Community designer

Sam grew up in the Pacific Northwest. After studying Industrial Design at California College of the Arts, he moved to Brooklyn, NY where he lived for the past four years. His work experience ranges from Urban Agriculture & Education to Sculptural Production & Research and is currently working with the organization on housing research/advocacy as well as design. Sam is interested in exploring the potentials of art and design as a tool for social engagement.

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Board of Directors


David Kietzman, President

Chief engagement officer & partner
Momentum solutions team  

 

Chris Cohen

Attorney & Partner
Sustainable Law Group

Eric Junker

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

Cecelia Sullivan, Treasurer

Director of Finance
Landmark Global, a bpoSt company
 

Dr. Paul Chounet

Retired / Former superintendent
Cuyama Joint Unified School District

 

Nancy Castro

EDUCATOR
CUYAMA HEAD START PRESCHOOL

 

Partners


 

Sponsors


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