Monday, December 28, 2009

The Last Day of the Southwest Museum

View from Parking Lot towards the Southwest Museum and Carcacol Tower: At 5:15 pm on Sunday, December 27th, the Southwest Museum closed its doors indefinitely. According to the Gift Shop staff, the Museum might reopen in five to six years. It will probably not open back up as a Museum, but as a Cultural Center. This was a sad day and a loss for our community. One older couple drove all the way from Orange County to visit the Museum for the last time. They took their children to the Museum 40 years ago! They found out it was closing and felt compelled to say goodbye.

The first Museum of Los Angeles closed its doors and gates on Sunday, December 27, 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Southwest Museum Store is closing!

If you've never been to the Southwest Museum, now is the time to do it! The Museum Store will be closing its doors by December 31st.

This is jewel of our community and the subject of a controversial preservation battle in Northeast Los Angeles.

Come visit and show your support!!!

Saturday: 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Sunday: 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Address: 234 Museum Drive Los Angeles , 90065
Major Cross Streets: North Figueroa Street and Avenue 45

Painting of the Museum by Wendy Hultquist.

See the recent LA Times Article Below for more info:

Southwest Museum of the American Indian store is closed
Supporters of the institution feat it's a sign that the Autry National Center is relegating the institution to a secondary role.

By Mike Boehm
December 18, 2009

The only part of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian regularly open to the public -- the museum store that had weekend hours only -- will close next month when its space is taken over by a conservation project.The decision by the Autry National Center of the American West, which runs the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington and the larger Museum of the American West in Griffith Park, to virtually suspend public operations for an estimated three years immediately inflamed the already heated suspicions of some Southwest Museum supporters.The Autry critics, including Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, fear that the Southwest is being relegated to a minor role, if not being written off entirely as a site for displaying a prized collection of almost 300,000 Native American artworks and artifacts."I'm very disappointed," Huizar said Wednesday. "It's actually confirming our suspicions that they had no intent to make this a viable destination" for museum-goers.But Autry spokeswoman Joan Cumming said long-range plans remain unchanged. They call for revitalizing the Southwest Museum as a "multiple-use" facility that would include space for educational programs and community events, as well as galleries that would show parts of the collection not being displayed in Griffith Park.

The project that is prompting the closure is the conservation of the museum's collection of Native American beadwork. Like much of the Southwest Museum's collection, Cumming said, the beads are fragile and need preservation work and that outweighs devoting more resources immediately to making the Southwest a public attraction."We understand it's a historic building and it's important to the city, but I don't think [critics] understand how complicated it's been. The collection could just disappear, so it's got to take priority," Cumming said.

Huizar and members of a community group called the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition say they have trouble believing the Autry's promises. They fear that the Autry wants to turn the 1914-vintage building into a mere warehouse for the collection, avoiding the expense of running it as a public museum while commandeering its collection to bolster the Griffith Park site as an attraction.Failing to keep it open and busy could hurt the northeastern Los Angeles neighborhood's economy, the group has said. They see the museum store's imminent closure as a sign that the Autry could revoke promises it made when it rescued the financially tottering Southwest in a 2003 merger that kept the Native American trove in L.A. when it was feared that it might be dispersed.But Cumming said closing the museum store now for an expected three years is a matter of needing its space for a large project to conserve the Southwest's large holdings of Native American beadwork, preparing them for an exhibition that could be three years off. Conservators "need a lot of space to lay out tables, shelves and equipment," she said.While the Southwest remains closed, she said, the only public programming will be monthly Saturday events, including lectures, that will require an admission charge for people who aren't Autry Center members. Annual membership dues start at $55 for two people and $65 for a family. The events will be promoted on the Autry's website.The first lecture, on Jan. 23, is "Surprising Discoveries Inside the Braun Library," in which a librarian or curator will show some of the prime holdings of the research library on the Southwest Museum's campus. The library remains open to researchers by appointment, Cumming said.

Conservation work that was already proceeding on other parts of the collection besides the beads will continue as before, as will renovations to the museum building. Autry officials say they've spent about $7.5 million since the merger on repairing the building and conserving the collection.A small gallery space in the Southwest Museum has been used once a month for contemporary art shows by NELAart, a consortium of artists and galleries in northeastern Los Angeles. Cumming hopes they can still be accommodated, perhaps in the Casa de Adobe, a reconstruction of a 19th century ranch house that's on the property.Last summer, Huizar and other City Council members had hoped to secure a formal written guarantee from the Autry that it would get the Southwest up and running as a fully functioning museum. The guarantee was to be a condition for the Autry to proceed with a planned $100-million-plus expansion and renovation of its Griffith Park campus, which is on city-owned parkland.But in August, the Autry pulled the expansion off the table. Its president, John L. Gray, wrote to council members that legally binding promises to upgrade the Southwest and keep it open no matter what would be "financial and programmatic commitments we cannot responsibly make."Museum officials say they have raised $136 million in donations and pledges toward the $175-million project. That includes $53 million for non-construction endowment funding. Cumming said the donors are willing to let the construction money go to an alternate plan, and Autry leaders are exploring ways to expand exhibition space within the existing Griffith Park building.An alternate project that wouldn't change the museum's footprint might not require the lease amendment and environmental impact report approval that had given city officials leverage over the previous plan.

Although planning is in its early stages, Cumming said, one of the goals, held over from the abandoned expansion plan, is to carve out 20,000 square feet of exhibition space that would house artifacts from the Southwest Museum's collection.Huizar said he's trying to find funding sources that could alleviate Autry leaders' fears that it could stretch their institution's finances if they take on improving the Griffith Park museum while renovating, reopening and running the Southwest Museum.A low-interest construction loan drawn from the city's share of federal economic stimulus funds could speed the needed improvements to the Southwest's building, Huizar said. He added that he's exploring the creation of a "park assessment district" that would collect special taxes from property owners near the museum and funnel them to the Autry to help offset the cost of operating the Southwest.Huizar said that would require a vote by the affected property owners to create the district and OK the assessments. He said he's been trying unsuccessfully to set up a meeting with Gray of the Autry to go over those possibilities."We have options we think could really work," Huizar said. "We still want them to honor their commitment to restore it and reopen it."

Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Little 6422 Garvanza House

Here is an example of advocacy on a small level that has made a difference to our community in Garvanza!
This is an early 20th century or possibly late 19th century bungalow with all its original features, that is until they showed up one day and gutted the interior. There were permits for an addition but no permits to knock down interior walls, knock out exterior walls and replace windows and doors. I was called by Danny Bohbot, a fellow Garvanzan to go check out the property. They were in the process of demolishing this house. But I stopped them through Building and Safety and the Housing Department came out and sited them and posted a stop work order! They were also ordered to restore the house, to put back the windows and doors and exterior walls they had begun to demolish on the sides and back of the house. I know they gutted the inside, as I was too late for that, but at least they restored the windows and did the new addition with clapboard instead of stucco. They are also landscaping it and put up a really nice looking fence along the alleyway. Oh and there are security bars inside the windows, at least they are not obtrusive. Anyway, just wanted you to see these pictures. (6422 Garvanza St.)

Tina Gulotta-Miller, Secretary Highland Park Heritage Trust