Councilman plays matchmaker for the Southwest Museum

The future of the Southwest Museum was left up in the air last month after the Autry National Center, which owns the Mount Washington landmark, said it was seeking  a partner to “develop future programs” at the museum site.  Today, Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Mount Washington, said he’s been working to find a match and has approached Occidental College in Eagle Rock about their interest in running Los Angeles’ first museum.

“I’ve been talking to Oxy …  about them taking over the site; opening up the museum,” Huizar said at a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. “They have some other educational uses they would like for the site as well.  So, we are working on seeing if that is possible.”   Occidental College, however,  is not quite ready to make a commitment just now.

Occidental spokesman Jim Tranquada said the discussions with Huizar’s office were part of “exploratory conversations” college officials have had about building closer relations and partnerships with several other area cultural and arts institutions.  College president Jonathan Vietch, who arrived at Occidental College last year after working at the New School in New York,  forged partnerships with several of that city’s cultural institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum. He wants to create similar partnerships for Occidental, Tranqueda said. “He’s exploring a lot of possibilities.”

Huizar conceded that the city now has very little leverage to force the Autry to reopen the Southwest as a full-fledged museum. Huizar and the coalition had blocked the Autry’s $175 million expansion of its Griffith Park museum until the Autry agreed to operate the Southwest Museum as an independent institution. The Autry, instead, purchased a building in Burbank and will undertake a more modest renovation of the existing Griffith Park facility.

“They were more interested in the [Southwest]  artifacts,”  Huizar said of  Autry officials. ” They were not interested in recreating the [Southwest] museum itself.”

Related post:
Friends of the Southwest Museum hold fundraiser tonight. ASNC Alert

Photo from Friends of the Southwest Museum


  1. The Autry’s claim that it can renovate the interior of its existing museum building without triggering any obligation to obtain permission from the City of Los Angeles is the height of arrogance. The Autry thinks it can operate above the authority of the City while taking a multi-million dollar subsidy of $1 per year rent.

    How much longer will the people tolerate Eli Broad and Gene Autry and other wealthy people getting giveaways from the City Council (led by Tom LaBonge) at the expense of the taxpayers and the City’s treasury.

    The Autry is in breach of its lease agreement now. How long will the City Council be party to this theft of the Southwest’s name, collection, endowment, and assets?

  2. As an Oxy alumnus, I’m not sure the school has the funds to run a museum. Sounds like a nice idea though.

  3. Jonathan Vietch is a very nice guy. My advice is to stay away from the nutty Mt Washington residents.

    They treated the Gene Autry like it was a Russian nuclear plant. Foreign and menacing. They’ll do the same with Oxy.

    Look at the comment above by Morris. Having a fit that a museum, an educational institution does not pay the rent to the city for a piece of the zoo parking lot.

  4. Great comment DL. I’m new to the neighborhood, but the Mt. Washers are a peculiar bunch. What’s the deal?

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