A new logo is a no-go — at least for now — at the Kern County Museum, recently renamed Kern Pioneer Village.
Zoot Velasco, who assumed the top job at the county-owned museum in early July, said Tuesday that community opposition to a rough draft of the new logo has convinced him to return to the drawing board. He will present more logo options to the board of the foundation that runs the museum at its Aug. 22 meeting.
“The first thing you have to remember is that the logo was not something that came from me,” Velasco said Tuesday. “It was one of several logos that were proposed to the board after a long process where we interviewed stakeholders and asked them what they thought about different things, including the logo.”
The controversial logo — an ornate “K” encircled by a vine — was to have replaced the longtime logo that features the words “Kern County Museum” in front of a drawing of the Beale Memorial Clock Tower, a replica of which greets visitors to the Chester Avenue museum.
The new logo was inspired by a letter engraved on a 19th century post that sits outside the Chamber of Commerce Building at the museum. The “K” on the post was Kern’s first known logo, Velasco told The Californian in July.
But the new design drew unflattering comments almost immediately after The Californian published a rough draft of it.
“I think going back to Pioneer Village is a great idea, but the wisdom of that is going to be overshadowed by the stunningly bad logo,” wrote a commenter identified as J.R. Lewis in a post on bakersfield.com. “No matter how authentic its inspiration, that logo is unforgivably horrible.”
Though some feedback has been positive, social media commenters took issue with the aesthetics of the design, calling it “gothic” and “prickly,” Velasco said. But the overwhelming objection to the logo, he said, was that it discarded the clock tower image.
“Because so many people were missing the clock tower and felt it was such an iconic part of our identity, and I can’t argue with that. That’s more the reason why we decided to revisit it,” he said.
A logo that incorporates the clock tower, one that features the “K” design and perhaps Pioneer Village logos from the 1940s and ’50s are among the options Velasco will present to the board for consideration, he said.
Apart from the design of the logo, some critics object to Velasco’s plan to have an artist friend in Los Angeles work on the design free of charge, rather than pay a local artist.
“Please consider hiring someone local who has an understanding of the importance of this museum,” Elizabeth Horton wrote on the museum’s Facebook page.
Velasco said he’s open to local input but defends using volunteer labor.
“I spent 12 years of my life as a full-time artist, and I know it is really important that artists get paid,” he said. “But on the flip side, I sat on boards and did free work for people and things I believed in. If someone is willing to volunteer, and you have an organization in the red and I want to get it in the black, you’re not going to turn down a volunteer who is fully qualified.”
Bob Lerude, director of Kern County Parks and Recreation and chairman of the board that runs the museum, said he’s encouraged by Velasco’s performance so far. He called the new CEO a “consensus builder” and applauded his idea to return the museum’s name to Pioneer Village.
“The board is great with him jumping forward and moving to change some processes,” Lerude said Tuesday. “The logo was one that happens once in awhile when you push the envelope and sometimes people like the change and sometimes not.”
In other museum news, Velasco said he has created a new full-time position, marketing director, for which he is accepting applications.
“At any of the museums and cultural centers I’ve run, I’ve only been successful because I’ve had a really good marketing situation.”
Velasco also said the museum has part-time openings in the custodial, security and education departments.
The museum’s total budget for 2016-17 is just more than $1 million, Lerude said. The county provides $325,000 of that total.