“To Whom It May Concern,
I have been both a member and a volunteer/docent with the Southwest Museum since 1985. Last Saturday, 12/12/2009, the docents had their annual holiday gathering at the museum. John Gray made a surprise appearance, and announced to our group that the Southwest Museum site at Mt. Washington would be closing to the general public. The reason he gave was that they needed space for artifact restoration and conservation. He said that after 12/31/2009, the bookstore area will be closed and used to do work on the bead-work portion of the collection. Any public events now taking place at the museum will cease. Museum access will be given only to museum members…–for example, the monthly tours of the building. It was unclear whether the NELA art openings would be open to the public or members only (the next show is 1/23/2010). No public annoucement would be made regarding either the closing of the store or the site itself.
With this action, the Southwest Museum is now officially a storehouse and conservation site, nothing more. Mr. Gray stated that it would not open again for at least three years and perhaps longer pending need. He stated the future plan for the site was still to create a cultural center, exhibition space and education facilities. This was the plan that came out of the public meetings held in 2006 by the The Human Rights Commission of L.A. Since there is no contractual obligation to move forward with this plan after negotiations ended last fall with the city, the Autry’s word becomes its sole binding agreement for the future of the site. With the miscommunication and lack of transparency about the future of the Southwest Museum since the initial agreement was signed back in 2003, it is difficult to believe that the Autry will honor its previous agreement. This latest action shows clearly that the Autry’s long-term commitment to Southwest Museum is questionable and doubtful. The closing of the site to the general public is contary to both the wishes of the community at large and the L.A. City Council.
Autry Returns Scarce State Funding Secured for SW Museum
by Nicole Possert
Autry's Decision to a Complete Closure of the Southwest Museum Shuts Off All Public Access to the First Museum in LA;
Autry Returns Scarce State Funding Secured for Southwest Museum Statement from Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition
LOS ANGELES (December 16, 2009) The revelation that Autry intends to quietly completely close the Southwest Museum to the general public on December 31st is the latest proof of Autry's continued disrespect to our community, to the City of Los Angeles and to the history of the Southwest, said Nicole Possert, Chairperson for the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition.
In 2003, Autry merged with the Southwest Museum with the stated intent to save the Southwest Museum institution. In the ensuing seven years, Autry has done just the opposite. It has not complied with the legal merger agreement and Autry's pattern of contrarian actions proves that they never intended to stay and continue to operate the first museum in Los Angeles. This is the last stab in Autry's death by a 1,000 cuts" strategy to kill the first museum in Los Angeles and take for themselves the priceless Southwest Museum Collection, continued Possert. "Wake up Los Angeles." Our history is unnecessarily going away.
This news piles on top of more negative news and a financial red-flag alert. Autry recently returned scarce grant funds to the State of California for over $160,000 to waterproof the historic tunnel entrance to the Southwest Museum the entryway with unique dioramas used by schoolchildren coming by bus and visitors using public transportation (Southwest Museum Metro Gold station and Metro Bus lines are immediately adjacent). The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition had originally supported that grant request and is alarmed by Autry's actions of disinvestment in the promised rehabilitation of the Southwest Museum and our community. "In light of Autry's financial condition, this is a strange and illogical way to be a responsible steward and uphold their fiduciary responsibilities to the merger,"concluded Possert.
The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition has watched, warned and worked to prevent this from occurring. Self-labeled IMBY's (In My Back Yard), the Coalition has worked to keep the Southwest Museum a key museum destination for Los Angeles. It has proposed various win-win solutions including a modest expansion of the Mt. Washington site for more exhibition space, supported Autry's artifact conservation efforts and fundraising activities for the rehabilitation of the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe. Each time, Autry rejected the Coalition's attempts at support and solutions.
Councilmember Jose Huizar's office has been working with City staff to review funding options to keep the Southwest Museum open and requested a meeting with Autry to discuss any financing options. The Coalition strongly urges the Autry to meet with Councilmember Huizar and actively secure a solution to re-open the Southwest Museum as a museum to the public, as promised. There is a trigger option, soon expiring on the Southwest Museum, allowing the Autry board to begin selling off parts or all of the priceless Collection, including the two historic museums - the Casa de Adobe and the Southwest Museum.
The Autry letter returning grant funds and highlights of Autry's actions counter to the intent of the 2003 merger will be detailed and available on the front page of the Coalition's website.