Blue Sky Rural Summit – Placemaking in New Cuyama

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – Helen Keller 


Placemaking. Both a process and philosophy, it is an ongoing journey of identity and community engagement. It is a group effort, a patient vision where form supports function. Established in 1950, the rural townsite of New Cuyama was once a vibrant mid-century company town. Nestled in the high desert off the 166 highway, Blue Sky Center hopes to regenerate the economy, land, and community. This past weekend, I was invited to the inaugural Rural Summit, where we broke bread (and boundaries) with designers, farmers, politicians, writers, musicians, and local residents.

A Place for Artists, Creators, Tastemakers


First time visitors will notice the overall ethos of this place is striking, a congregation of creative changemakers. The 22,000 square feet of industrial-commercial space was the perfect backdrop for a curated day of action, with a chance to tour the facilities, while bringing together the ideas of shelter, food, livelihood, and culture. In addition to a working warehouse for several artists, the center has incorporated 4,000 acres of privately owned runway space (yes, you can fly in), as well as 300 acres of alluvial farmland which are currently fallowed and under lease.


Step foot on to the land and it is obvious that creative placemaking is at the front and center of the movement, offering “an inclusive, whole systems, collaborative, and entrepreneurial approach to rural community development.” In addition to a Woodie car builder and community print shop, beautiful murals adorn the center, from LA based designer Eric Junker to Ojai illustrator Daren Thomas Magee.

Blue Sky’s Warehouse Artist Space, Mural by Eric Junker
Blue Sky’s Flagship Building Space, Mural by Daren Thomas Magee

Camp & Stay at Blue Sky Center

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If you want to check out the absolutely breathing sunsets and sunrises, look no further than booking one of the cozy Shelton Huts, designed and inspired by local architect Jeff Shelton and his daughter Mattie. Acting as both a space for artist-in-residencies and weekend warriors, the center hopes to inspire rural economic revitalization through tourism and hospitality. Perhaps teepees and tunes around the fire is more your style? Book online with Hipcamp, which offer dispersed camping throughout the property. Warm days, cold nights. The perfect weekend.


How You Can Support

  1. Financially Sign up with the Center for a monthly or annual contribution and become a Sky Dog, Mountain Climber, Desert Bloomer, or Legacy Builder.
  2. Partner – Provide financial and in-kind support to build capacity in the organization and community to address systemic challenges and scale solutions.
  3. Donate Needed Equipment or Supplies –  Support their wishlist of equipment and supplies that will aid in their growth and development.
  4. Serve – The Center is always seeking aligned and creative advisors, board members, volunteers, fellows, and collaborators.



Stay tuned for more coverage in the Fall 2017 issue of Edible Santa Barbara. For more information and to donate, please visit

Taste. Trek. Travel.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Amazing photographs. This looks like an amazing place to camp. The cacti and desert landscape looks incredible, and yes, teepees and tunes around the campfire is totally my style! Can’t wait to read more in your Edible piece!


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