Legacies | MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

MOXI is located at 125 State Street adjacent to the popular Funk Zone neighborhood and just two blocks up from Stearns Wharf and the beach. The building was designed by the late Barry Berkus and AB Design Studio and is LEED Gold Certified. Photo courtesy MOXI.

MOXI is located at 125 State Street adjacent to the popular Funk Zone neighborhood and just two blocks up from Stearns Wharf and the beach. The building was designed by the late Barry Berkus and AB Design Studio and is LEED Gold Certified. Photo courtesy MOXI.

MOXI Marks Leap Into Year Two With New CEO, Expanded Programs

By Leslie Dinaberg

It has been a really incredible first year for MOXI … and we’ve just gotten started,” says Robin Gose, president and CEO. Gose began her tenure at MOXI late last year, after serving as director of education at the Thinkery in Austin, TX, where she oversaw all programming, exhibits and facilities at what was once Austin Children’s Museum.

MOXI’s attendance its first year has far exceeded expectations (175,000 guests versus approximately 120,000 estimated) and Gose says, “Attendance continues to be strong. The feedback that we’re hearing from members of the community, from donors, from tourists that come up, is that everybody is really excited by what they see at the museum.”

MOXI specializes in STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Math) learning through interactive experiences outside the traditional classroom environment. Because of the interactive elements, and individual children’s continued growth and development,

MOXI is designed so that it will be different each time you visit, with new challenges to solve and new discoveries to uncover throughout the 17,000 square-feet of interactive exhibits across three floors (including an incredible 360 degree view rooftop).

The award-winning, LEED gold certified building—which had the design challenge of fitting into the Spanish style neighborhood while creating both a high tech and kid-friendly vibe and was designed by the late Barry Berkus + AB Design Studio—has played an important role in the revitalization of lower State Street as a destination for both tourists and locals.

“We have about 75% local, and 25% non-local visitors,” says Gose, adding that school visits include many students from Santa Barbara County, as well as Ventura County, San Luis Obispo County and beyond. Last year, 10,000 school children visited MOXI on field trips, and nearly 50% were from Title I schools.

Adults are also big fans of the venue. MOXI’s quarterly Afterparty events have all been sell-out affairs, and include live entertainment, demonstrations, games and local food and cocktails. Also popular are the pop- up Twilight Time evening hours for guests 18 and up who want to explore the museum kids-free. These are advertised primarily via social media, Gose says. The theme for 2018 is “Making,” with monthly spotlights on subjects like cardboard engineering and digital creativity.

These themes extend to summer camp activities, as well as new weekly projects in the Innovation Workshop makerspace. Also new are an exhibit design partnership with the Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy and Toddler Tuesdays, a volunteer-run program where the youngest guests can have special story time and other activities and explore the exhibits without visiting school groups onsite.

With 44 full and part-time staff and nearly 100 volunteers, ranging in age from 13 to 75 years old, MOXI has quickly become an important part of the community. In fact, earlier this year the museum provided alternative classroom space to Montecito students and teachers displaced by disaster and opened its doors free of charge to Thomas Fire and Montecito mudflow evacuees as well as first responders and their families.

Upcoming fundraising events for the nonprofit museum include an intimate rooftop concert with Jackson Browne on August 10 and the annual gala fundraiser MOXI@Night on September 22. For information or to purchase tickets, email development@moxi.org or call 805/770-5003.

MOXI,125 State St., Santa Barbara, 805/770-5000, moxi.org.

This story was originally published in the 2018 summer issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

AB Design Studio Selected as New Architect for Children’s Museum of Santa Barbara

Aerial view of Santa Barbara Children's Museum, courtesy AB Design Studio

Aerial view of Santa Barbara Children’s Museum, courtesy AB Design Studio

The long-wished-for Children’s Museum of Santa Barbara takes another step forward with the selection of architects from AB Design Studio Inc. to complete the building, which was initially designed by the late Barry Berkus.

Affectionately dubbed “the sand castle,” the whimsical design features approximately 15,000 square feet of interactive exhibits including a rooftop sky garden with exhibits and viewing areas. The museum will also house a state-of-the-art theater for video art and a small classroom, as well as a museum store.

Expected to be Santa Barbara’s first LEED-certified museum, the innovative building will highlight its own features such as the use of repurposed blue jeans for insulation and several “kid-powered” exhibits.


Rooftop view of Santa Barbara Children's Museum, courtesy AB Design Studio

Rooftop view of Santa Barbara Children’s Museum, courtesy AB Design Studio

The building will be located at 125 State St. between Hotel Indigo and the Train Depot. According to a recent statement, the project is currently in the permitting stage and will start construction in the summer of 2014 with a plan to be open in 2016.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on February 3, 2014.

Parting shot

The court of public opinion is a tough one in which to play ball. It’s charged with emotion, unpredictable and, ultimately, the victories won are hollow and imprecise. Do the squeakiest wheels actually represent a majority opinion, or merely a loud one?

In the case of the proposed beach basketball courts, we’ll probably never know.

Presented with a disproportionate amount of public criticism, and few supporters willing to get into the game, architect Barry Berkus recently withdrew his support for the project he’d once offered to shepherd.

“There are not a lot of hours in the day,” said Berkus, who devotes 25 percent of his time to philanthropic endeavors. “This has really turned ugly because the aggressive people went after me personally. There are a lot of letters that weren’t published, a lot of people who will not get into a fray. It’s a shame that a few can take away the dream of many … I guess I’m going to learn how to play drums on the beach.”

An active opponent of the project, Mike Larbig, said he got involved initially to try to protect the quality of his local (Shoreline) park. When that site was shot down, the new father of twins said he thought long and hard about whether to continue to fight the project. Ultimately, frustration over the process was what kept him going. Proponents never really demonstrated this big public need or desire for a court, said Larbig.

Indeed the biggest unanswered question in the whole fiasco — other than “What would Pearl Chase think about courts at the beach?” — is whether we have enough basketball courts to fulfill the community’s needs. The available public courts are in ill repair, according to Berkus. Others argue there are plenty of perfectly good courts sitting unused around town. The letters to the editors keep on coming, but the concrete facts are few and far between.

“No, there has never been a needs assessment,” said Billy Goodnick, project coordinator for the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department.

Nor has the Santa Barbara School District done a study of basketball court use, said spokeswoman Barbara Keyani.

At the end of a recent Santa Barbara City Council meeting, Councilman Gregg Hart offered his post-game analysis. Unfortunately, many of the major players in the court of public opinion had already gone back to the office to file their stories.

“I am saddened by the level of discourse in this debate. The vitriolic, mean-spirited attacks on Mr. Berkus … his motives. This is about providing a recreational opportunity for the community,” said Hart.

But sports are about a lot more than recreation. One of the fundamental values they teach is to respect the other team. In tennis, if there’s a question about a line call, you must decide in favor of your opponent. In other words, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Both Berkus’ drive to build the courts, and his opposition’s desire to preserve the beachside integrity should be commended, not criticized. Acting with the best of intentions, at least they had the courage to get in the game.

It’s not for nothing that in basketball — win or lose — you shake hands at the end of the game. It’s one court where actions speak louder than words.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on July 24, 2003.