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Autry drops plans for $175-million expansion at Griffith Park site

August 11, 2009 | 12:02 pm

Autry

The Autry National Center has bowed out of a protracted battle for a $175-million expansion of its facility in Griffith Park.

City approval of the plan hinged on a recent demand for the Autry to make a legally binding commitment to support the Southwest Museum as a fully functioning art institution in perpetuity. In a letter delivered to members of the Los Angeles City Council today, the Autry stated that such a commitment would be irresponsible and that it is withdrawing its proposal.

“Any further attempt to proceed with the proposed expansion project in Griffith Park would be an ill-advised diversion of our financial resources and an insupportable distraction from our work in serving the community,” Autry President John L.Gray stated in the letter. “We come to this decision with reluctance and deep regret — but the constant delays, the past and future costs, the unyielding insistence on financial and programmatic commitments which we cannot responsibly make, and the prospect of future expensive and debilitating litigation all demand that we fulfill the Autry’s vision under different circumstances.”

The Autry proposed a two-phase project that would have increased its Griffith Park building from 142,000 square feet to 271,000 square feet, including exhibition and visible storage space for the Southwest’s collection.  Despite the setback, Autry leaders say they will carry out their vision by continuing to care for the Southwest’s Native American art collection and historic building, and converting Autry storage space into galleries.

Check back with Culture Monster later today for updates on this report.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Autry National Center. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times 


 
Comments () | Archives (38)

The Autry is one of my favorite museums in LA. Despite this news, I'm confident that the institution will continue holding extraordinary exhibits and wonderful (and affordable!) programs for everyone.

As a longtime resident of Eagle Rock, I have always been proud to live in the shadow of this wonderful museum on the hill. This news is unfortunate and sad because all of us in the surrounding neighborhoods love this museum and its programs and exhibitions. Like so many of us in LA, we wanted an expansion of the Autry because after they saved the Southwest Museum, they proved their respect for art and artifacts. Autry, live long and flourish!

The Autry is a vastly underrated resource of western history in Los Angeles. I dont think this setback would have any effect on the quality of their exhibits.

It's great how hard the Autry has worked to preserve the artifacts in the Southwest collection (keeping it in LA) and caracol tower, how they continue to work with native american groups to ensure proper and respectful display and storage of the artifacts. They also work hard also to repatriate native american remains. It's a shame that the museum's ambitions have been thwarted, they are good citizens.

If only the Autry would change its name to Aztlan or Afo-something, the requested permits would be forthcoming. A sad commentary on our politically correct and historically ignorant times. The Autry Museum is too good for LA.

Living in this country for ten years now, I've always been fascinated by all the great museums people can enjoy all over the country. (Can't wait for teh Walt Disney museum in Presidio to open!) Yet I feel the history and heritage of the US has been relegated to side wings or minor museums except maybe for the Autry and the recent (Two years ago maybe?) addition in Washington of the Museum of the American Indian.

In Mexico, where I come from, we do o.k. in our museums with art from all over the world. But the best museums we have are those that preserve and explain our rich past and history. Some of them are spectacular! (Antropologia in Mexico city?)

I wish this could be the case in this city. Not only people from all over the world come to LA to live the American Dream, but to learn about this country. Los Angeles should be able to expand on museums like the Autry and the Southwest without a problem.

I find it sad when the city is paying for some pop star's funeral or a basketball team's parade, but we can not get together to agree in supporting the arts and the people who preserve the American history.

I hope people support the Autry just by visiting more often.

Living in this country for ten years now, I've always been fascinated by all the great museums people can enjoy all over the country. (Can't wait for teh Walt Disney museum in Presidio to open!) Yet I feel the history and heritage of the US has been relegated to side wings or minor museums except maybe for the Autry and the recent (Two years ago maybe?) addition in Washington of the Museum of the American Indian.

In Mexico, where I come from, we do o.k. in our museums with art from all over the world. But the best museums we have are those that preserve and explain our rich past and history. Some of them are spectacular! (Antropologia in Mexico city?)

I wish this could be the case in this city. Not only people from all over the world come to LA to live the American Dream, but to learn about this country. Los Angeles should be able to expand on museums like the Autry and the Southwest without a problem.

I find it sad when the city is paying for some pop star's funeral or a basketball team's parade, but we can not get together to agree in supporting the arts and the people who preserve the American history.

I hope people support the Autry just by visiting more often.

I'm looking forward to the Autry moving to Orange County where the taxpayer does not have to subsidize them to the tune of $27.5 million (over the term of the land lease) like we are!

Goodbye Jackie!

The loss is one of a more comprehensive, contextual understanding of Los Angeles' richly complex, ofttimes battling (and baffling), histories. How much better for our diverse communities, to have been able to more broadly see history and cultures in context, their points of convergence made more plain and resonant - and sometimes so bittersweet and painful - by bringing the Native collections into conversation with those of the dominant cultures.

Opportunities to see the Native collections will likely be as reduced as they were before the Autry came to the collection's rescue; and, in this dismal economic environment, it's hard to imagine enough innovative programming coming to the Mt. Washington site to make the collection better accessible to a wider audience.

I can't help but believe that, a year from now, those who led the opposition to the expansion, in favor of a nostalgic vision of what the Southwest Museum once was, will have a lot of explaining to do.

Wow! Its a shame this place will not be expandanding! It is such a wonderful museum , and my kids absolutely love going there. We were just at the museum last thursday night listening to the music. Had a wonderful time. It seems strange that the entire expansion plan hinged on the fact the Autry would have to "commitment to support the Southwest Museum as a fully functioning art institution in perpetuity. " Forever is a long, long, time... I love the old SouthWest museum as much as the next guy, but it seems a little impracticle for the Autry to have to support it as well as itself. Museums all over are having to lay people off as their endowments dry up. There is just no extra money these days, and it would cost a fortune to update that place! On top of that crazy hill with all those stairs. As it is you can only fit about 20 cars in the parking lot. I'm sure it was a great place in 1920, and is a great old historic building today, but i don't know how it could function as an art institution, I can't imagine it has many paying visitors. Its really too bad. If the city is going to put such demands on our institutions they should free up some money to help them. And as an angeleno won't we be missing out on tourist income, as well as a really cool place, by not having a bigger museum of the west? People all over the world love cowboy culture and lore. Seems very short sited decision by the city. Will the Autry ever be allowed to expand?

I think the use of that "Goodbye Jackie" phrase is very personal and mean-spirited. It should be eliminated from the comments. Please moderate. A civil disagreement is fine but let's leave personal attacks out.

This all fell apart due to Jose Huizar. Just goes to show you what one greedy and short sighted city council member can do to derail a project that would create jobs and revenue for Los Angeles.

What a loss for the City of Los Angeles, because of greedy slimy politicians. The Southwest Museum had been a mess for decades before the Autry stepped in and rescued it. And now one politician wants to drag down one of the best institutions in LA.. such a shame and a waste of resources.

Good for the Autry for not bowing to the Council!

Now everyone can see what the Friends of the Southwest Museum have been dealing with for all these years: lies, lies, and more lies from the Autry Gang. The Board at the Autry museum would promise anything to get their hands on the priceless Lummis collection. Promise anything, that is, except to legally commit to keeping the Southwest Museum open as a viable museum.

The Autry Museum has fulfilled their promise to retrofit the original Southwest Museum site. The scaffolds are down, and the place looks great. But the deal was to retrofit AND reopen.

Several years ago, an email from the Autry folks was intercepted. It essentially offered the building to a local Native American tribe to serve as an office. The Friends of the Southwest Museum have good reason not to trust the Autry Board.

Jose Huizar has gained my continued vote for his efforts in this matter. Our still-silent Mayor Villa-Raigosa, who owns a house in the shadow of the Southwest Museum, continues to earn my contempt. (Shame on you, Mr. Mayor. If you won't stick up for your own neighborhood, why would anyone trust you with a city or a state?)

As for John L. Grey and his ilk...we'll see what the next move is in this game of chess.

I have been an occasional visitor to both the Autry and the Southwest Museum, and have followed the give-and-take between the Autry and Southwest Museum factions from a distance.

I wish someone would explain to me why the Southwest Museum isn't more valued as a museum site. I strive to be a reasonable person. I understand that some factors out of the public eye -- for instance, ADA access -- might explain why the Autry seems to have felt less enthusiasm for the Southwest Museum as a site than for the Southwest's collection.

Still: I just don't get it. The Southwest Museum is the oldest museum in Los Angeles. It's right next to a Gold Line station of its very own, and the route from Union Station to the Southwest Museum station is friendly and inviting to out of towners. It offers gorgeous views. The Autry may be a great place to visit, but aesthetically, it's a K-Mart next to the Southwest.

And yet the Southwest Museum is thought of as something that the Autry has been saddled with, stuck with. I simply don't understand.

The Autry needs to be relevant to the people of Los Angeles. Right now it speaks to a minority of a few scholars and freeway exit takers. I would love to see this museum to be more of a social place that houses conversations with everyone not just the few. The collections should provide a dialogue with all that make you ask “why” is this crap relative to me and how does this crap help me see my life. Does the $175M do that?

I went to the hearing with an open mind. In retrospect, this southwest group sounded a lot like the people protesting health care at town hall rallies. Repeating suspicions over and over again until politicians ran scared.

It's so sad this has to happen. Ive seen the architectural renderings of what the new Autry will look like, a great design by Brenda Levin. Definitely a major improvement from the "O.C. mall" aesthetic of the present facility. We could have had a great architectural icon to showcase Native American/Southern Western culture of which not many are familiar with. Again another lost opportunity for LA and its citizens, another shameful record for the city council. Why is it that the majority are always held hostage by a few? Hopefully a compromise can be reached!

All of the whiners talking about how they are always going to the Autry is a load of CRAP.

Fact: 10,000,000 visitors a year go to Griffith Park to enjoy the park.
Fact: 500,000 visitors show up for the Holiday Lights show annually.
Fact: Between just 100-200,000 attend the Autry annually.

If we were to believe what you spinners are spinning, you all are responsible for an awful lot of the relatively minor numbers the Autry gets annually!

Give it a rest.

Amazing. Gary is offended by "Goodbye, Jackie" but not about "$27.5 million" in taxpayer money.

And now we know why Los Angeles is in the economic state it's in.

 
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