Meeting Minutes: November 5, 2014

Sprague Hall hosts speakers and visitors

Sprague Hall hosts speakers and visitors. Photo courtesy of Al C. Strange

The coalition meeting began with a welcome from Mari Pritchard Parker, the current chair of the Friends of the Southwest Museum.  She reminded coalition members of their sustained efforts to support the Southwest Museum, exemplified by a certificate of recognition, presented to the Friends in 2003, for outstanding service and support of the Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery exhibit at the Southwest Museum.

Next to speak was Ann Walnum, who encouraged coalition members to get involved on the neighborhood level by taking our group’s message to various neighborhood council meetings.  A sign-up sheet was distributed and several members signed up to spread the word and reaffirm the strength of our coalition.

Following her was Arturo Chavez, CD 1 Chief of Staff, speaking on behalf of CD 1 councilmember Gil Cedillo. His message was one of hope that with the change in leadership at the Autry (Rick West, the new Autry President and CEO, has Native American heritage), things are becoming more “open”.  He believes that the boardroom climate is shifting from one of suspicion to one of inclusion.  To the gathered crowd, Chavez said, “the fact that Autry has allowed the National Trust to get involved in this is a good thing.”

Chavez was questioned directly by Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.  She asked what CD 1 was going to do about the unfortunate tagging and defacement of the lovely mural depicting Native American themes that is located on Marmion Way, right at the bottom of the hill where the Southwest Museum sits.  Chavez’s response was that the Autry “is open to fixing the murals”.

The invited speaker for the evening was Christina Morris, field director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Los Angeles Field Office.  The National Trust is a privately funded, national non-profit organization whose mission is to save historic places.  Ms. Morris explained the National Trust is considering adding the Southwest Museum, the first museum in Los Angeles, to its list of historic sites that are under threat and designating it a “National Treasure”.  To see more about the National Trust’s National Treasures program, please click here.

The process for determining whether the Southwest Museum remains a fully functioning museum on Mount Washington is complicated and the outcome remains uncertain.   The Trust only represents the interests of the building itself, but it will be working to ensure inclusive community participation in the decision-making process.  All parties involved are looking for uses, including adaptive re-use, which would allow the site to remain financially sustainable.  The Autry has been receiving input about potential uses of the building from a variety of stakeholders over the past year, but final decision-making power rests with the Autry and their Board, who have fiduciary responsibility for and control of the site and the collection.

When asked how community members would be able to give their input on what they wanted to see happen with the building, Morris responded that the Trust was in the process of setting up those communication channels and that the leaders of our organizations would be responsible for spreading the word when the communication channels are ready for community comment.

The local field office for the National Trust for Historic Preservation is located at 700 South Flower Street, Suite 1100, Los Angeles, California 90017.  Their phone number is (213) 232-1123 x 1159.