Art Kishiyama, one of the most noted local artisan olive growers and promoters, passed away April 17 at the age of 76 after battling lung cancer for more than three years. Starting essentially from scratch in 2002, he and his wife Lynn, a well-known local artist and teacher, planted nearly 4,000 trees and established the Olio Nuevo brand of boutique olive oil as a thriving enterprise. Grown on his sun-soaked, 20-acre Ranch at Cripple Creek in Paso Robles, Olio Nuevo was on store shelves in three states and bought worldwide by hundreds of discriminating seekers of artisan olive oil.
Art was a former president of the Central Coast Olive Growers, representing about 70 local olive farmers. He was instrumental in establishing a burgeoning olive market in San Luis Obispo County. When he and Lynn began olive ranching, there were only a handful of growers in the county, mostly small farms. Today, more than 1,000 acres are dedicated to olive production.
A true local, Art graduated from San Luis Obispo High School in 1959 and Cal Poly in 1964, majoring in architecture. With the Viet Nam War looming, Art joined the Air Force where he ended up 26 years later retiring as a full colonel.
He immediately began a second career at Walt Disney Imagineering, building international theme parks. That colorful career spanned 15 years before he enjoyed a second retirement. One of his Disney highlights was leading the team that built DisneySea, adjacent to Tokyo Disneyland. Created from landfill out of Tokyo Bay, the maritime-themed park, hotel and shopping complex opened in 2001 and hosts about 13 million visitors annually.
Among his hobbies was AirStreaming, towing his luxurious trailer to exotic and scenic locales in California but as far as Alaska and Montana. He was the ultimate happy camper. He also enjoyed golf, fishing and planning his next adventure, whether a cruise or an expansion of his ranching business. At one time, he was balancing all these ventures and even raising alpacas, accumulating a herd of four dozen, all named after Disney characters, of course.
Art is survived by his wife of 46 years, Lynn, two brothers David and Michael, a sister Chiyo Lacy, and several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life observance will be held May 26 at 2 p.m. at The Groves on 41 in Templeton. Another is planned for Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to be made to the Japanese American National Museum and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.