‘New Beginning’ for Southwest Museum

January 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Long time supporters of the Southwest Museum in the Mount Washington area of Los Angeles are hailing last week’s naming of the 100-year-old site as a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Southwest Museum is now one of just 55 such designations across the country. What the designation means in practical terms is not yet clear, however, the news is expected to open the door to valuable resources and alliances that could aid in securing the museum’s future, and most importantly, its long term financial sustainability.

During last week’s public announcement, Barbara Pahl, Western Regional VP of the National Trust for Historic Preservation — one of the nation’s leading private historic preservation groups — said the national treasure naming recognizes “the historic, architectural and cultural values that have made the Southwest Museum site a beloved fixture in Los Angeles for the past century.”

Supporters of the Southwest Museum celebrated on Thursday the naming of the museum as a ‘national treasure.’ (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Supporters of the Southwest Museum celebrated on Thursday the naming of the museum as a ‘national treasure.’ (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“This is a wonderful new beginning for the future of this site,” said Mary P. Parker, a member of the Friends of the Southwest Museum coalition. The Friends group has long criticized the Autry’s management of the site, but now says it is willing to work with the Autry “to try to keep the museum open for more than one day a week,” according to Parker.

Likewise, Autry President W. Richard West Jr., reaffirmed the Autry’s commitment to work with the National Trust, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and the community as well as the growing group of interested experts of arts, philanthropy, education and native leaders in the important process and progress of the Southwest Museum.

“We at the Autry respect this site’s history, it is important to the local community and the region,” said West Jr.

The Autry had said it could not afford to operate the museum or pay the estimated $26 to $46 million cost to upgrade the Southwest to modern museum standards.

The partnership with the National Trust, however, could make the difference.

“We look forward to identifying a sustainable use that ensures that the Southwest Museum site actively contributes to the thriving
urban fabric of Los Angeles for the next 100 years,” explained Pahl.

This is “a very positive day” that has been long in coming, said several members of the community following the announcement.

Heinrich Keifer is one of those who has sought a resolution to the impasse with the Autry in hopes of seeing the museum reopened.

He says it’s no longer about whether the Autry failed to live up to its commitments, but finding the right equation “to make it a successful site” again. “This is a day to bring new partners into the scene,” Keifer said.

Pahl said the National Trust will hold public outreach meetings to gather opinions on how best to use the museum site, mostly closed since 2006, opening just one day a week on Saturdays.

According to the Autry, they have invested over $14 million since taking over. Two-thirds of the investment has gone to conserving the Southwest’s extensive collection of Native American and early California artifacts and art – which has been removed from the site – and the remainder to renovations to stabilize the museum structure.

West told EGP that it is unlikely the vast collection of art and artifacts removed from the Southwest will be returned, except for specific events such as an exhibition or educational program.

“But I don’t want to prejudge it because there are other parties in this process, not just the Autry,” said West.

A recent community-based survey showed overwhelming support for a fully functioning museum at the Mt. Washington site, and possibly a cultural community center with some commercial elements, such as a restaurant.

The National Trust will take the lead on planning and mediating the tense relationship between community stakeholders and the Autry, and could pursue government and private grant funding to support the eventual consensus on the museum’s future.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents the area where the Southwest Museum is located, hailed the national treasure designation.

“I applaud the National Trust for naming the Southwest Museum, a National Treasure,” stated Cedillo in an email; he was unable to attend the official announcement due to illness.

The “announcement confirms and validates the importance of preserving our historic resources,” Cedillo stated. “I am committed to working with the community and the Autry to help protect and ensure the next 100 years of the Southwest Museum.”

Southwest Museum Named ‘National Treasure’

January 22, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

The city of Los Angeles’100-year-old Southwest Museum was named a “national treasure” today by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The announcement was made at the museum’s Mount Washington location, making it one of just 55 such designations across the country.

What the designation means for the Southwest Museum in practical terms is not yet clear, however, it will open the door to valuable resources and alliances that could aid in securing the  museum’s future, and most importantly, its long term financial sustainability.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation — one of the nation’s leading private historic preservation groups — said today it plans to hold public outreach meetings to gather opinions on how best to use the museum site.

The Southwest Museum has been at the center of a near decade long feud between museum supporters and the Autry National Center of the American West, which took over management of the financially failing museum in 2003 as part of a merger agreement.

Southwest supporters say the Autry has not lived up to its “promise” to restore the facility so it could continue to operate as a fully functioning museum.

According to the Autry, they have invested over $14 million since taking over. Two-thirds of the investment has gone to conserving the Southwest’s extensive collection of Native American and early California artifacts and art – which has been removed from the site – and the remainder to renovations to stabilize the museum structure. But they say they cannot afford to operate the museum or pay the estimated $26 to $46 million cost to upgrade the Southwest to modern museum standards.

Friends of the Southwest Museum, a coalition of individuals and organizations that has tried for years to pressure the Autry – and city officials – to reopen the museum, has long contended that the value of the Southwest’s collections could provide a path to securing the revenue needed for operating the historic facility, but that the Autry has been more interested in using the collections to bolster its status and to build patronage of its Griffith Park campus.

The museum has been mostly closed since 2006, only opening for a few hours on Saturdays, to the ire of many museum supporters.

A recent community-based survey showed overwhelming support for a fully functioning museum at the Mt. Washington site, and possibly a cultural community center with some commercial elements, such as a restaurant.

The National Trust says it plans to hold public outreach meetings to gather opinions on how best to use the museum site and its collection.

Barbara Pah, Western Regional VP of the preservation group, said designating the museum site as a national treasure recognizes “the historic, architectural and cultural values that have made the Southwest Museum site a beloved fixture in Los Angeles for the past century.

“With the collaboration and enthusiasm of the Autry, the city of Los Angeles, and individuals and organizations both in the neighborhood and throughout Los Angeles, we look forward to identifying a sustainable use that ensures that the Southwest Museum site actively contributes to the thriving
urban fabric of Los Angeles for the next 100 years,” Pahl said.

Autry president, W. Richard West Jr., said Autry officials are “honored to partner with the National Trust to identify a proud and viable future for the site that will respect its important legacy and bring value to the community and Los Angeles area.”

The National Trust will take the lead on planning and mediating the tense relationship between community stakeholders and the Autry, and could pursue government and private grant funding to support the eventual consensus on the museum’s future.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents the area where the Southwest Museum is located, hailed the National Treasure designation.

“I applaud the National Trust for naming the Southwest Museum, a National Treasure,” stated Cedillo in an email.

The “announcement confirms and validates the importance of preserving our historic resources,” he stated. “I am committed to working with the community and the Autry to help protect and ensure the next 100 years of the Southwest Museum.”

 

4:30 p.m. This article has been updated to note that the “national treasure” designation has been made; National Trust for Historic Preservation’s plans to hold public meetings; quotes and background information from the National Trust and the Autry.

Southwest Museum’s ‘Future’ Survey Released

December 25, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

Debate over the future of Los Angeles’ first museum has raged for years, but according to the results of a recent survey, there’s a great deal of support for the Southwest Museum remaining a fully functioning museum, once again exhibiting the collections of Native American, Southwest, Pre-Hispanic, Spanish colonial, Latino and Western American art and artifacts it housed for decades.

Founded in 1914 by Anthropologist and Indian Rights Activist Charles F. Lummis, the Southwest Museum sits atop a hill in the Mount Washington area of Northeast Los Angeles. On the verge of bankruptcy and in disrepair, it merged in 2003 with what is now the Autry National Center of the American West, the plan being that the Autry would restore the facility and conserve the museum’s archives for exhibit at the Mount Washington site.

But the majority of the collections were removed during the conservation process and the Autry now says it would cost too much to bring the facility up to modern museum standards. Instead, the collections will 2be displayed at the Autry’s Griffith Park location, a decision that has angered museum supporters.

Years of fighting over the museum’s future splintered support in the community, with some groups saying they would rather see the museum used as a community center than have it remain closed.

The survey, conducted by El Plan del Southwest Museum—a non-profit organization that says it is dedicated to building a successful solution for the museum—was taken between July 25 and Aug. 31, 2014. The survey was intended to gauge local attitudes for use in future planning.

Survey results were released Dec. 18 and are available in English and Spanish.

According to statements in the survey, the methodology allowed respondents to provide input on their knowledge and attitude towards the Southwest Museum.

Of the 217 people surveyed from the Northeast Los Angeles area, 91% said it is important that the Southwest Museum continues functioning “as a contemporary museum.” Only 5% disagreed with the statement and 4% of those surveyed did not answer.

Gabriel Buelna, co-founder of El Plan, told EGP during the museum’s 100th anniversary celebration that he doesn’t think enough people from the community have been involved in the debate over the museum’s future. “We are working on a process to see what people want” to do with the museum, he said.

Therefore, in partnership with the Autry, they developed the eight-question survey, which was distributed at public events such as the museum’s 100-year anniversary, the Latin Jazz Festival and at Northeast LA area Neighborhood Council meetings. Surveys were also received via mail and email.

Eighty percent of those surveyed said they want the Southwest collections to be shown at the Mount Washington site, compared to 16% who chose the Autry. An undefined number of participants said there should have been an option to  “both” museums.

Of those surveyed, 87% agree it is “Very important/important that the Southwest Museum remains open for them and their community” in the Northeast area, while 68% understand that the museum holds  “significant Native American and Latino collections,” although 96% of respondents were unclear about what’s in the collections, but still “believe identifying its contents is important.”

According to the executive summary, respondents have on average lived in the area for 26 years; 43% were male and 48% female and 75% had visited the Southwest Museum. There is also support for the facility “to be used for education, culture, restaurant, event space, Native American research, and gardens,” however, the Autry should “understand that by far and away the majority of Northeast Los Angeles residents are passionate about the Southwest Museum.” Despite being largely closed for nearly 11 years, having so many passionate supporters bodes well for the museum’s future, according the report.

“The next few months will be important as citizens from Northeast Los Angeles will be asked to take part in the process of defining the future of the Southwest Museum,” states a letter by the El Plan Del Southwest Museum. “Community members and stakeholders will both contribute input to help visualize an exciting future for the museum in Northeast Los Angeles and assure that it is sustainable.”

In a written statement, the Autry thanked El Plan for conducting the survey and said they welcome “ideas and input about potential uses.”

“The survey results are useful information that will contribute to the broader effort starting next year—led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the City and the Autry.”

 

To read the full results, go to www.elplan.org.

 

El Museo Southwest Celebra Su Centenario

August 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Ha pasado más de un siglo desde que el periodista, antropólogo y activista por los derechos de los indios Charles E. Lummis comenzó su expedición para abrir el primer museo en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, el Museo Southwest de los Indios Americanos.

El sábado, se celebrará el aniversario número 100 del cumplido de su visión en Mount Washington, la misma colina donde el museo ha estado desde 1914.

Inaugurado en 1907 en el centro de Los Ángeles, el Museo Southwest se trasladó en 1914 al sitio de 37 acres en Mount Washington.

Hoy en día, es considerado un monumento histórico-cultural, enlistado en el Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos y el Registro de Lugares Históricos de California. Los Monumentos Culturales Históricos de la ciudad de Los Ángeles incluyen tanto al Museo Southwest como a la Biblioteca Braun.

Read this article in English: Southwest Museum Celebrates Centennial

El museo más antiguo de Los Ángeles actualmente es propiedad del Centro Nacional Autry, resultado de una sociedad que pretendía salvar al sitio histórico de cerrar sus puertas después de años de problemas financieros y deterioro de la estructura icónica del museo con una inmensa colección de artefactos nativo americanos, prehispánicos, arte español colonial, latino y americano del oeste.

Sin embargo, durante la ultima década, el museo ha permanecido principalmente cerrado, en parte para permitir las reparaciones del sitio y el archivo de colecciones, que han sido trasladadas al Centro Autry en el Parque Griffith y a otra facilidad de archivo en Burbank.

Stacy Lieberman, vice presidenta de comunicaciones y experiencia al visitante en el Autry dice que la celebración del centenario del sábado se enfocará en la arquitectura única y la historia de su fundador Charles E. Lummis, en lugar de la colección extensiva del museo.

El evento, el cual es gratis y abierto al público, también contará con una discusión sobre los posibles usos para el sitio, lo cual incluye que sea convertido en un centro comunitario multicultural, con salas de conferencia utilizados para propósitos educacionales y culturales. Un restaurante, un jardín comunitario y exhibiciones de galerías limitadas son otras de las opciones disponibles.

El museo Southwest esta abierto los sábados de 11a.m. a 4p.m. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El museo Southwest esta abierto los sábados de 11a.m. a 4p.m. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

Para algunos, sin embargo, la celebración de los 100 años es un poco agridulce. Dicen que la ironía es que el Autry celebrará el aniversario de un museo que detuvo su operación completa hace 10 años—abriendo sus puertas al público los sábados solamente.

“¿Sabes que tenemos una generación completa de niños que no han podido visitar el Museo Southwest?” John Nese, dueño de Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Highland Park le dijo a EGP, “Ellos no saben la historia”.

Nese se refiere a las generaciones de niños de escuelas del área de Los Ángeles que sí aprendieron sobre la historia y cultura de los nativo americanos y el suroeste de EE.UU. mediante viajes escolares al Museo Southwest.

Nese es miembro de Amigos del Museo Southwest, una coalición de individuos y grupos que durante años han estado luchando para obligar al Autry a reabrir el sitio de Mount Washington como un museo en pleno funcionamiento. Ellos creen que el Autry ha violado los términos de la fusión, al negarse a mantener el museo abierto y exhibir las obras de arte y artefactos en la zona de Mount Washington.

Ann Walnum co-fundó el grupo de amigos, y le dijo a EGP que ella no está contenta con el plan del Autry para la celebración del centenario o el futuro del Museo Southwest. “[El Autry] no tiene ninguna intención de tener el Southwest operando como un museo completo”, dijo.

Walnum dice que el Autry tomó cerca de 85% de la colección del Southwest “para almacenarla de forma segura” y “prometió” devolver la colección de cerca de 238.000 artefactos nativo americanos—la más grande e importante en EE.UU.—en cuanto se tuvieran fondos para renovar el Museo.

Eso no sucedió, dijo.

Como resultado, el futuro del museo se ha convertido en controversia. Protestas, peticiones y demandas han sido utilizados para tratar de forzar el Autry a “seguir los términos del acuerdo”, según Walnum. Los funcionarios electos han expresado su apoyo a la devolución del Museo a pleno funcionamiento, usando una variedad de tácticas para forzar que el Autry ceda, sin éxito alguno.

Lieberman dice que el problema no es el costo de reabrir el museo, pero “sostenerlo”.

Ella dijo que aunque se recauden los $25 a $41 millones necesarios para rehabilitar el museo, el dinero no estará ahí para mantenerlo abierto y funcionando como un museo de la actualidad. “El museo no se pudo sostener financieramente” en el pasado y probablemente no lo hará en el futuro, le dijo a EGP.

“Esperamos que en unos meses lleguemos a una decisión,” sobre el uso del edificio, agregó.

Nese sin embargo, piensa que el dinero para mantener al museo se puede conseguir al exhibir las colecciones en otros lugares, lo cual no se ha hecho en los pasados 12 años, según indica él.

“Los europeos y otras etnias mueren por ver nuestra historia [nativo-americana]” igual que “nosotros nos emocionamos al ver las exhibiciones de otros países, como los egipcios,” agregó.

Pero de acuerdo a Lieberman, “la colección esta en mal estado y actualmente guardada en un área segura” y no se ha reconstruido todavía para que se pueda mover.

El Autry espera que prontamente sus instalaciones en Burbank sean “un destino donde los estudiantes, investigadores, artistas, representantes de tribus y el publico en general” puedan tener acceso a la historia del Oeste de America.

Mientras tanto, Lieberman enfatizó que los 100 años de aniversario no son exactamente sobre el museo, pero si sobre el sitio. El Concejal Gil Cedillo CD-1 y el Presidente del Autry W. Richard West Jr. estarán conmemorando el lugar.

Las exposiciones incluirán material de archivo histórico en la Biblioteca de Investigación Braun y dioramas creativos de los estudiantes de las escuelas Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts y Franklin en el túnel del museo en Museum Drive.

La exhibición de los “Cuatro Siglos de Cerámica de Pueblo” con más de 100 piezas de cerámica raras del Museo Southwest de Colección Indígena Americano del Autry, traza la historia del Pueblo de cerámica después de la colonización española en el siglo XVI hasta la actualidad.

El museo estará abierto el sábado desde las 10a.m. a las 4p.m. Para obtener más información, visite el sitio web del Centro Autry: theautry.org/exhibitions.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

Southwest Museum Celebrates Centennial

August 14, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

It’s been more than a century since journalist, anthropologist and Indian rights activist Charles E. Lummis began his quest to open the city of Los Angeles’ first museum, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. On Saturday, the 100-year anniversary of the fulfillment of his vision will be celebrated in Mount Washington, atop the same hill where the Museum has stood overlooking the City of Angels since 1914.

First opened in 1907 in downtown L.A., the Southwest Museum moved in 1914 to the 37-acre site in Mount Washington.

Today, it is considered a cultural-historical monument, and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and the California Register of Historic Places. The City of Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monuments includes both the Southwest Museum building and Braun Library among its listings.

The Southwest Museum is open every Saturday from 11a.m. to 4p.m.  (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The Southwest Museum is open every Saturday from 11a.m. to 4p.m. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Los Angeles’ oldest museum is now owned by the Autry National Center, the result of a 2003 merger intended to save the historic site from closing after years of financial woes and deterioration of the Museum’s iconic structure and vast collections of Native American, pre-Hispanic, Spanish colonial, Latino, and Western American art and artifacts.

But for the last decade, the Museum has remained largely closed, in part to allow for repairs to the facility and archiving of the collections, which have now been moved to the Autry Center in Griffith Park and an offsite storage facility in Burbank.

Stacy Lieberman, vice president of communication and visitor experience for the Autry, says Saturday’s centennial celebration will focus on the Museum’s unique architecture and the history of its founder Charles E. Lummis, rather than Museum’s extensive collections.

The event, much of which is free and open to the public, will also include a discussion on possible future uses for the facility, which could include it being turned into a multicultural community center, with conference rooms used for education and cultural purposes. A restaurant, community garden and limited gallery exhibits are some of the options being floated.

Lea este artículo en Español: El Museo Southwest Celebra Su Centenario

For some people, however, the 100-year milestone is bittersweet. They say it’s ironic that the Autry would be celebrating the 100-year anniversary of a museum that stopped fully operating about 10 years—now opening its doors to the public only on Saturdays.

“Do you know we have a whole generation of young kids who haven’t been able to visit the Southwest Museum?” John Nese, the owner of Galco’s Soda Pop Stop told EGP. “They don’t know the history.” He was referring to the generations of Los Angeles area school children who in years past learned about the history and culture of Native Americans and the U.S. Southwest through field trips to the Southwest Museum.

Nese is a member of Friends of the Southwest Museum, a coalition of individuals and groups that has for years been fighting to force the Autry to reopen the Mount Washington site as a fully functioning museum. They believe the Autry has violated the terms of the merger by refusing to keep the Museum open and to exhibit the artwork and artifacts at the Mount Washington site.

Ann Walnum co-founded the Friends group, and told EGP she’s not happy about the Autry’s plan for the centennial celebration or the future of the Southwest Museum. “[The Autry] has no intention to have the Southwest operate as a museum again,” she said.

Walnum says the Autry took about 85% of the Southwest collection “to safely store them” and “promised” to return the collection of about 238,000 Native-American artifacts—the biggest and most important in the U.S.— when funds were available to renovate the Museum.

It didn’t happen, she said.

As a result, the Museum’s future has been mired in controversy. Protests, petitions and lawsuits have been used to try to force the Autry to “live up to the terms of the agreement,” according to Walnum. Elected officials have expressed support for returning the Museum to full operation, using a variety of tactics to force the Autry’s hand, to no avail.

Lieberman says the issue is not the cost of reopening the Museum, but “sustainability.”

She said even if the $25 to $41 million to rehabilitate the site could be raised, the money is not there to keep it open and functioning as a modern day museum.  “The museum was not financially sustainable” before and probably would not be in the future, she told EGP.

“Hopefully, in a few months we will come to a decision” about what the building should be used for, she said.

Nese on the other hand thinks money to support the Museum could be raised by exhibiting the collections in other places, which he says has not been done in the last 12 or so years.

“Europeans and other ethnicities are dying to see [Native-American] history,” just as “We get exited to see exhibits from other countries, such as the Egyptians,” he said.

However, according to Lieberman, “the collection was in disrepair and is currently in a proper storage” area, but not yet built to be moved out. The Autry hopes its Burbank facility will eventually become “a destination where students, scholars, artists, tribal representatives and the broader public” will have access to the history of the American West.

In the meantime, Lieberman emphasized that the 100th year anniversary celebration is not exactly about the museum, but of the building. Councilman Gil Cedillo CD-1 and Autry President W. Richard West Jr. will be honoring the site.

Exhibits will include historical archival material on view at the Braun Research Library, and creative dioramas by students from Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts and Franklin High School in the tunnel at the Museum Drive level. The “Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery” exhibit, featuring more than 100 pieces of rare ceramics from the Autry’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, traces the history of Pueblo pottery following sixteenth-century Spanish colonization to the present.

The museum will be open Saturday from 10a.m. to 4p.m. For more information, visit the Autry Center website: theautry.org/exhibitions.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

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