Mechelle Lawrence Adams, Executive Director

Executive Director’s Message

Mechelle Lawrence Adams

Mission San Juan Capistrano as a 240 year old California landmark continues to discover its meaning through its museum collection. Over the past 14 years, a monumental chapter of artifact and site preservation has ensued.   Along the way staff found forgotten objects tucked away waiting to be rediscovered and mean something in this new millennium.

The result of our efforts has been staggering and beautiful.  Since then over 2,600 objects of historic significance have been painstakingly logged in, conserved, catalogued or recorded to become what today comprises the Mission’s official museum collection.

Together, with our supporters, we have learned many things.  For example, within the Museum, there are really two separate art collections.  The first collection includes the Mission’s founding-era religious period artwork that was used to tell about Christianity when Father Serra worked to evangalize the Native Americans.

Over the past decade we also learned that there exists a second, lesser-appreciated art collection. The Mission’s early 20th century plein air paintings reflect a time when California oil painters, emulating the style of famed Europeans artists such as Gauguin and Matisse, worked to forever capture the site’s beauty and serenity providing us with oil on canvas recordings of the Mission’s architectural past.

What is learned from the overall Museum collection is that with time and a contemplative spirit we can continue to learn from each object in our collection.

Of course, as we continue to make strides to enhance the religious and historic significance of our Chapel, landmark and museum, we remain ever grateful to the public for making good work possible.

It is only an engaged community that can save a historic landmark for future generations to ensure that history is accessible and inspiring all the while.


Mechelle Lawrence Adams
Executive Director, Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mechelle is a Native Californian, graduate from Huntington Beach High School, California State University Fullerton (BS, Political Science) and University of Redlands (M.A.,Management).

She is the recipient of such awards as National Preservation Award, National Association of Interpretation Media Award, Arts Orange County’s Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy award, San Juan Capistrano’s Mayor’s Business of the Year, Orange County’s Top Work Place Award, Tabasco Company’s top community cookbook award, Mayor’s City of San Juan Capistrano Business Organization of the Year for Heritage Tourism Association and marketing co-op efforts supporting the innovative promotion of the historic downtown’s business community (2017) and most recently California Missions Foundation Chairman’s Award for Significant Contribution to missions preservation (2018). She is the member of many professional and local organizations and speaks professionally to groups interested in developing strategic planning results affecting real, meaningful, and measurable change.

Mechelle is the proud mother to three and resides locally with husband and colleague, Joe Adams, President of the Discovery Cube Foundation. They strive to ensure that children locally and from all over the world, along with their families, get to experience the best of Orange County’s landmark and museum settings in ways that are both meaningful and accessible to all. Mechelle strives to respect both the religious and historic significance of Mission San Juan Capistrano by ensuring stewardship through careful preservation efforts that allow for it to be a place of inspiration, education, preservation and celebration.

I love my job. It is a special lifestyle for me to work protecting this incredible landmark, building a stellar team, refining our means and methods of ensuring preservation stays at the forefront, working to make sure that the integrity of the site is safeguarded while creating vibrant cultural celebrations. Every day is a treasure at the Mission. I am fortunate to have a job where I not only get to make a meaningful difference but I also get to experience a meaningful difference in my life as well.

Present Boards and Commissions:
Preserve OC, Member (2018)
California Preservation Foundation, Member (2018)
Committee Member, Advisory Committee for California Missions and Presidios (2018 to present)
Orange County Historical Commission, 5th District, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett (Spring 2017 to present)
City of San Juan Capistrano, Cultural Heritage Commission Member: Appointed for two terms (2015-2017) and (2017-2019), Chairwoman 2016-2017, and 2017-2018 and current chair
City of San Juan Capistrano, Laissez Faire Business Sub-Committee (2016 to present)
Discovery Cube Gala Co-Chairperson (2015, 2016, 2017)
Founder, San Juan Capistrano Heritage Tourism Association (2014 to present)
Discovery Cube Foundation Innovators, Founding Member (2013 to present)

Past Board Member:
San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, Board Member
San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Board Member