Q&A with the Southwest Museum Site Steering Committee

December 13, 2016 by Kevin Sanada

In October, the Highland Park Heritage Trust (HPHT) welcomed the Southwest Museum Site Steering Committee and National Trust for a special meeting about the future of the Southwest Museum site.

Before the end of the year, we wanted to share a few updates from the National Trust and the Autry in direct response to some of the questions and requests that were made at the HPHT meeting. We are continuing conversations with specific potential partners who are interested in reuse and reactivation of both the historic Southwest Museum buildings and grounds and the Casa de Adobe. These conversations are still preliminary, but we hope to have more details to share with the public early in the new year. Thank you to the HPHT for the opportunity to have such an open and productive conversation!

Q: Has the Steering Committee met with other stakeholders and other cultural attractions in the immediate area to discuss challenges, opportunities, and collaboration?

Yes, both the National Trust and members of the Steering Committee have been meeting with and speaking to a number of potential partners. This includes several arts- and culture-based groups and organizations in the immediate Northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods, as well as arts organizations, museums, educational institutions, and philanthropic organizations in greater Los Angeles.

Q: Is the Autry still offering tours of the new Resources Center? Who do we contact about this?

Stacy Lieberman at the Autry will arrange another round of tours of the Autry Resources Center for interested individuals in Burbank in 2017. Dates and RSVP information is forthcoming from the Autry.

Q: Has cultural programming for youth been discussed?

Yes, this has come up on a few occasions and specifically was raised by the Friends of the Southwest Museum (FOSWM) as a priority for their group. Earlier this year National Trust staff met with several teachers and administrators in Highland Park and Northeast Los Angeles to gain a better understanding of their curriculum requirements, and how programming or events might be developed at the Southwest Museum site that would appeal to students and teachers while still satisfying the core curriculum. Contacts and suggestions from all those meetings were shared with the FOSWM. Autry staff have participated in two meetings so far with representatives from the FOSWM to discuss the existing and extensive educational programming already offered through the Autry, and what unique opportunities the Southwest Museum site might present to offer different and expanded programming that would enhance what is provided at the Autry in Griffith Park and through their outreach program in various school districts.

Q: What is the status of the mural?

The community mural committee—which includes representatives of the Autry, Councilmember Cedillo’s office, and partners such as Avenue 50 Studio—is finalizing an agreement with a muralist to restore the mural in early 2017. This process follows many months of fundraising by the mural committee and a search to find a muralist to complete the work because the original artist is unavailable. In the meantime, the Autry and the City are working closely to monitor, clean, and paint over graffiti as it occurs on the Marmion Way wall.

Q: We’ve talked about the historic Southwest Museum, but what about the Casa de Adobe? Are there any plans for it?

Because the SWM site is much larger, and much more complicated and costly in terms of a viable reuse, the bulk of the Steering Committee’s efforts naturally have been focused on that portion of the site. But we definitely consider the Casa to be an important historic structure and a critical part of our work. Recently a local non-profit organization has expressed interest in the site as a possible partner and user. We are currently working with this group and their board to get a better sense of their concept, assess its feasibility, and develop some preliminary space plans and cost estimates over the next few months. The Executive Committee will meet with this group to consider the concept and provide advice and feedback. We hope to have the group come before the full Steering Committee for a discussion early in the new year.

This year, Preservation Month is going virtual. Unlock a piece of history every day from May 1 to May 31.