Given that cowboy star Gene Autry was its co-founder and namesake, the Autry National Center of the American West has struggled to ride out from under a stereotypical image as the "cowboy museum" in Griffith Park. Its mission is to present a sweeping and comprehensive program of research and exhibitions about all aspects of Western art, culture and history.
In that light, the announcement this week that Marshall McKay will chair the Autry's board of trustees for the coming two years is significant: he's the first Native American to hold the top board post in the museum’s 22-year history.
“It’s a double honor to have this bestowed on me,” said McKay, 58, who is chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribe in Brooks, Calif. “To come into this position is outstanding for a Native American... One of my goals as chairman is to bring those perceptions along, so it’s not just a 'cowboy museum,’ but a museum of the American West.”
Jackie Autry, widow of Gene and by far the Autry's leading benefactor, said Friday that along with the symbolic importance of McKay's chairmanship is the practical benefit of his expertise in Native American art and culture, and the administrative and leadership experience he brings to the table.
He'll lead the Autry's board at a critical moment of expansion: the museum is in the early stages of a $75 million renovation project .
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-- Mike Boehm
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Photo: Marshall McKay. Credit: Autry National Center.