Protesters seek greater payoff from public investment in Southwest Museum

Protestors outside Southwest Museum/Martha Benedict

Demonstrators gathered outside the Southwest Museum today to protest the museum’s one-day a week schedule after more than $10 million in public funds were spent on repairing the Mt. Washington landmark.

Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition claimed that the Southwest Museum’s owner, the Autry National Center, has “stiffed taxpayers” while offering “very little in return for their generous investment,” according to a coalition statement. The Southwest Museum recently held its first exhibit in seven years but the show is open to the public for only six hours a week.

The funds in question were primarily from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for structural repairs to the museum and the handling and storage of its large collection of Native American artifacts.

“After spending approximately $10.5 million of our tax money, the Autry is only giving taxpayers a one-day-a-week exhibit at the Southwest Museum,” said Nicole Possert,* coalition spokesperson, in a statement. “That’s not good enough. Taxpayers should be in revolt over how the Autry has disrespected them, and they should let our city, state and federal elected officials know they expect more from the Autry.”

The Autry, which took control of the Southwest Museum a decade ago, defended its management and efforts to restore the century-old museum with a combination of public and private funding .

“With the merger of the Autry with the Southwest Museum, our top priority has been to properly care for and maintain the collection after decades of neglect with the goal of making the collection accessible for research, exhibits, and programs in Los Angeles for decades to come,” said W. Richard West Jr., President and CEO of the Autry National Center of the American West, in a statement.

The Autry, according to the statement, remains “committed to identifying a viable future for the historic Southwest Museum campus.”

* Possert is a contributing writer to The Eastsider.

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