Los Angeles’ oldest museum is in the market for a makeover.
On Tuesday, the Autry Museum of the West put out a request for organizations to propose original and cost-effective ideas to revitalize the Southwest Museum, which it has owned and overseen since 2003. In a statement, the Autry said it planned to transfer its caretaking duties to a new owner that it says, in a perfect world, would partner with it to create programming, events, exhibits and more. It says the ideal situation would be finding an owner who could not only do that, but also put in the estimated tens of millions of dollars needed in renovations and also preserve the site’s history.
The Autry says it would evaluate interest “from a wide range of parties, which may include but are not limited to arts organizations, foundations, educational institutions, community organizations, private businesses, and historic property developers, among others.” That could also involve commercial businesses like restaurants or retail or housing developers, partnering with a cultural organization in the revitalization effort.
The discussion over what to do with the Southwest Museum, which is on the National Register of Historical Places, has been going on for years and residents in the area where it’s located just off the 110 Freeway in Northeast L.A. as well as some groups have been fighting to have the space reopen as a museum. The Autry has said that the money needed to upgrade the museum to current regulatory standards combined with operational expenses would not make that option financially feasible.
What do you think should be done with the Southwest Museum building and site? If you’re a resident of the area, are you open to the idea of a cultural institution partnering with commercial entities or private businesses to develop the area or do you think the museum’s site should be preserved and revitalized? Join the conversation at 866-893-5722.
Richard West, president and CEO of the Autry Museum of the American West
William Deverell, professor of history and director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West at the University of Southern California
John Nese, member of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition and business owner in Highland Park since 1955