Ventura County's Support-Local Program

The True Believer

Barbara Meister’s support for the arts offers a “use it or lose it” example to all.

There’s an old saying that a wise horseman takes care to avoid riding on the ridge line. To spur a mount along that summit is known to be a risky endeavor. Such a high profile was known to make an easy target of the rider, who invites the arrows of all who regard her passing. The zeal that would motivate one to sally forth so visibly might strike some as mania, while others might recognize the mark of the True Believer.

Barbara Meister knows something about wisdom, and not merely for the sake her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, nor her past career as an educator. As one of Ventura County’s most visible and generous arts patrons, she’s an obvious target for a vast array of artists and promoters looking for support. It’s a reputation that’s founded in fact, nearly to the point of legend: Meister is a major supporter of Rubicon Theatre Company, the Ventura Music Festival, the Ventura Film Society, the Museum of Ventura County, Ventura County Ballet Company, Ventura Boys and Girls Club and many more initiatives and non-profits. “Barbara’s support for the Ventura Film Society has been indispensable, notes VFS founder Lorenzo DeStefano. “She has helped us continue to bring quality alternative cinema to Ventura and has shown herself to be a true believer in what we do.”

“I’m passionate about the arts,” Meister confides with an air of understatement. “Especially the performing arts – ever since I was twelve, and went to see Oklahoma, I fell in love with it.” And theatre remains near and dear to her heart. Not only is she is an important patron of Rubicon Theatre and serves on their Board of Directors, she also produces plays on Broadway – most recently with the revival of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, famously starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame – and as far away as London, where she Produced Pippin. Yet she makes it clear that home is where her heart truly is. “I think it’s great that we have, with Rubicon, world-class theatre right here in Ventura,” she notes. “I just wish more people would participate.”

It’s a sense of community that cleanly dovetails with Totally Local VC’s “live local” mandate. “I enjoy restaurants,” she observes, “but I like to make sure to dine in the community. I guess that’s a way that I’m ‘Totally Local;” I don’t like to go to chain restaurants. But that’s only fair,” she concludes. “I want local people to come to my business, too.”

In an age of economic downturn, where arts depend on private support more than ever before, the successful auto executive (Meister has served as CEO and President of Barber Ford-Volkswagen-Subaru-RV since her husband passed away some seven years ago) puts her money where her heart is. “It’s not that I have so very much money,” she explains. “Many people in this community have much more money than I do. I just give mine away.”

That giving is manifested in more than just greenbacks, as she gives vast amounts of time to back up those sums, serving on not only Rubicon’s board, but also those of Community Memorial Healthcare Foundation, the Tower Club, City National Bank, Casa Pacifica and the Ventura Music Festival. Asked where she finds the time, she demurs “I like to stay busy.” Such busy-ness is well received: she has been awarded Casa Pacifica’s “Guardian Angel,” the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ “Volunteer of the Year” and “Philanthropist of the Year” awards, and the Temple Beth Torah award for “Woman of the Year.” She has been named a Ventura County “Jefferson Award” nominee, and most recently, Women’s Economic Ventures honored her with the 2012 “Trailblazer Award.”

The list of her involvements honestly boggles the mind, worth quoting at length for the sake of her astonishing example to dedicated philanthropy: she presents scholarships each year to nurses at Community Memorial Health System, in association with the nursing program at Ventura College; she has established two scholarships at Ventura College for a students in education and business; she has endowed a scholarship for teachers at California State University Channel Islands; she gives scholarships at each of the five Ventura Unified School District High Schools, to seniors majoring in business; she has sent thirty-eight young people to Israel through the “Meister Scholarship Fund Youth Trip to Israel” at TempleBeth Torah. There are the Meister Casa Pacifica employee awards, the Ventura County Community Foundation Women’s Legacy “Barbara Meister Fund for Women,” and the Jewish Federation “Meister Teaching Tolerance Fund.” Amazingly, the list of her beneficiaries goes still farther: New West Symphony, Jewish Federation of Ventura County, Birthright Israel Foundation, Food Share, Jewish Family Service, California International Theatre Festival, Focus on the Masters, Cancer Research Organizations and the United Way all happily owe her thanks as well.

Yet even as she shows up and digs deep, she knows that a thriving art scene requires more than money and volunteers. “The strength of our arts scene,” she observes, “really depends on what kind of support the community is willing to give. Every organization needs money to survive, yes, but they also need the interest and attention of the public at large.” Her message is clear, both in her giving example and her wish for a greater involvement: “It’s actually a pretty simple formula,” she explains. “If you want to have it, you have to support it. If you don’t support it, it’s going to go away. That’s all there is to it.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

Learn more about author James Scolari

James Scolari

About the author

James Scolari is a writer and photographer. Though his seedling sprouted in other soil, after transplanting to the Gold Coast it has flourished and bears fruit in Ventura throughout the seasons. Late of local print journalism, Scolari edits TLVC content for publication and offers odds and ends from his own pen. He's also a staffer and advocate for Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, and teaches his own brand of image-making in the ongoing Mind's Eye photo workshops. Check out his website at


Related Articles


  1. And she is an amazing mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She is a unique person and if there where more Barbara Meister’s in this world, it would be a much better place!!

  2. What a great article! My mother is my hero and a true inspiration to others! Makes me proud to be her son!

  3. A remarkable woman and truly great friend.

  4. Great Lady, her sons a great guy too…..she fell in love with Oklahoma the musical and he fell in love with Oklahoma the state….

  5. Yes Barbara has always been an amazing woman and champion of the fine arts!

Show some love to our great sponsors

Mortgage Couch
Houseling's Tomatoes
Guardian Memorial
Ventura Rental Party Center
Ventura Meat Company
Ventura County Cattlemen's Association