By Mary Lynch
The Autry Museum of the American West, which owns the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington, has received 36 proposals from parties who are interested in developing the Southwest Museum property for “community benefit.” Translated, “community benefit” covers just about any use, from live-work spaces, cafes, restaurants and retail to offices, performance venues and meeting rooms.
The Autry solicited the proposals last March, seeking new “partners/owners” for the museum property.
Since then, however, the Autry has also entered into discussions with the County of Los Angeles about a possible role for the County in the Southwest Museum’s future.
A spokesperson for the Autry told the Boulevard Sentinel that it has asked some of the 36 parties who submitted proposals to clarify details in their submittals, but that the Autry would not take concrete steps to move forward with other potential investors while discussions with the County are ongoing.
The County’s involvement in the discussions is a rare cause for optimism among community activists who have long fought to see the Southwest Museum property revived as a museum where its priceless collections can be exhibited. (Currently, the collections are kept in storage at an Autry facility in Burbank, with a few items displayed at the Southwest Museum on Saturdays and at special events.)
These activists were dismayed last March, when the Autry essentially put the property up for sale. At the time, the Autry said that its best-case scenario would be to find a new owner who would partner with the Autry on educational programming, events and exhibitions related to the Southwest Museum collection. But the activists saw the Autry’s search for a new owner more as closing the door on any hope that the 105-year old Southwest Museum, would again function as a museum.
Will L.A. County save the Southwest Museum?
The Boulevard Sentinel asked L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents Northeast Los Angeles, about the discussions with the Autry. A spokesperson for Solis replied by email that “Supervisor Solis is eager to see a plan developed in partnership with the Autry that preserves the facility and ensures access to the collection for the enjoyment and enrichment of the greater community.”
According to the spokesperson, the County is still in an information gathering phase that will last for several months and be followed by a period of community outreach to gather more input.
In other words, it’s too soon to say in any detail what a deal between the Autry and County might look like. But hope springs eternal.
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