The Southwest Museum Battle: It’s Back!

The Southwest Museum controversy is returning to City Hall. This Tuesday, the City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee will hear three motions related to Northeast Los Angeles’ cultural centerpiece. Both motions were introduced last summer and have languished for some months.

The first motion, by Councilmember José Huizar, who currently represents the Southwest Museum site, directs the City to form a working group to engage in dialogue with the Autry National Center. The working group is to consist of museum experts, stakeholders and community groups and will be charged with: 1) developing a long-range plan for the Autry Center at Griffith Park; 2) developing a long-range plan for the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe sites at Mt. Washington; 3) advising as to the status of the lease renewal process between the City and the Autry Center in Griffith Park; 4) reviewing the Merger Agreement between the Autry and the Southwest and the implementations of its mandates; 5) identifying funding sources for renovation and operation of the Southwest Museum and 6) reporting to the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee of the City Council within 60 days on the progress of these discussions.

The second motion, by Councilmember Ed Reyes, who represents the Casa de Adobe, and who will represent the Southwest Museum site as well beginning in July, regards supportive grant writing. It instructs the Department of Recreation and Parks to make sure that all future grant applications for any renovation, expansion or improvements for the Autry Museum also seek funding for the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe and requires that such grant applications be presented to the Councilmember of the District before submission to the granting agency. The motion was motivated by the Autry’s application for state funding for renovations in Griffith Park to house the Southwest collection while the Southwest Museum sat unused.

The Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee is chaired by Councilmember Richard Alarcón. The other two members of the Committee are Councilmember Reyes, who is supportive of the retention of the Southwest Museum as a functioning museum at its Mount Washington site, and Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who has been consistently supportive of the Autry’s desire to move the Southwest collection to Griffith Park and who announced at one council meeting that the Southwest Museum was dead. Friends of the Southwest Museum, a coalition of many Neighborhood Councils, community organizations and preservation and heritage advocates, is asking community members to attend the council committee meeting and to urge the committee members to pass the Huizar and Reyes motions on to the full City Council for consideration.

Although he has signed on to the Huizar motion as a second with Reyes, LaBonge has introduced a third motion. It requests the Autry National Center of the American West and other stakeholders to enter into discussion with the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee about potential opportunities for the Southwest Museum, its building and its collection “to develop a plan that will bring new life and use to the buildings.” The motion does not specifically mention use of the Southwest campus as a museum. The LaBonge motion carries seconds from another Northeast Councilmember, Eric Garcetti, and from Valley Councilmembers Greig Smith (now out of office) and Paul Krekorian.

Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee

Tuesday, April 17, 8:30 a.m.

Los Angeles City Hall

10th Floor, Room 1060


Meanwhile, there is a rumor floating about that the Autry is planning on opening a small bit of the Southwest Museum, the space at the bottom of the stairs that has served as an exhibit space in the past, to the public on weekends beginning May 19. We will have more information regarding this as soon as it becomes available.

And, if you enjoyed the Friends of the Southwest Museum Galco’s Soda Tasting (or if you were one of the very few people who missed it), mark your calendar for July 22 and Galco’s Soda Tasting 2! Tickets available soon.