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The Autry Museum’s CEO is retiring. A UCLA historian will take over

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The person credited for reworking L.A.’s Autry Museum of the American West and championing up to date Native American artists has introduced plans to retire.

President and Chief Government W. Richard West Jr. will retire in June 2021, the museum stated Tuesday. UCLA historical past professor emeritus Stephen Aron, who has a scholarly historical past with the Autry courting to 2002, will succeed him.

West, who’s a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, has led the Autry since Jan. 1, 2013. Beforehand he was founding director of the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and previous to that he spent practically 20 years as a Native rights lawyer.

Throughout his 7½-year tenure on the Autry, he’s credited with reworking the establishment based because the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in 1988 by actor-cowboy Gene Autry and his spouse, Jackie, together with one other singing cowboy, Monte Hale, and his spouse, Joanne.

“My life as a director of museums is a double rainbow,” West stated in an interview. “I’ve had the dignity and the pleasure of directing two of the best museums, however I made a vow to myself that I’d not be directing a museum once I turned 80!”

West, 77, grew annual attendance on the Autry by greater than 25%, to a median of practically 200,000 guests a 12 months earlier than the museum closed in March due to the pandemic. In 2015 he launched an $80-million fundraising marketing campaign (of which $71 million has been raised to this point) to broaden exhibitions, programming and academic initiatives. West additionally grew the gathering, including about 3,600 gadgets to what’s now greater than 600,000 objects — artwork and artifacts in addition to a library and archives that embrace uncommon books, outdated maps and sound recordings. In 2019 he oversaw completion of the Autry’s Assets Middle, a collections, analysis and schooling facility in Burbank that can open to the general public in early 2021.

West — who was born in San Bernardino and whose father was an artist — additionally formed exhibitions and programming with a watch towards making the museum extra related and various. That has included the Autry on the map as a vacation spot for up to date Native American artwork.

The museum has offered touring exhibitions that includes up to date artists together with Rick Bartow and David Bradley. The museum’s group present “After I Bear in mind I See Purple: American Indian Artwork and Activism in California” will open nearly this fall.

West is especially happy with the 2019 Autry-produced exhibition “Coyote Leaves the Res: the Art of Harry Fonseca,” centered on the California-born artist whose property the museum acquired in 2016, and “La Raza,” the Autry’s 2017 providing for the Pacific Normal Time: LA/LA initiative organized by the Getty. “La Raza” was a few Chicano rights motion publication of the identical identify that was energetic from 1967 to 1977.

West diversified the Autry’s curatorial staff with the objective of increasing whose tales are informed within the American West. This previous December, the museum introduced two high-profile hires: Minnesota-based curator Joe D. Horse Seize as vice chairman and curator, and California African American Museum curator Tyree A. Boyd-Pates as affiliate curator of Western historical past.

“Tyree and Joe, due to their very own experiences and their very own work,” West stated, “will convey voices of the African American communities and the quite a few up to date native communities throughout the U.S. that then have influence on the lifetime of the museum and making the museum a useful resource for these communities.”

West’s tenure on the Autry was not with out its difficulties.

He inherited a controversial dialog over the way forward for the historic however financially troubled Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the 100-plus-year-old museum in Mt. Washington that’s L.A.’s oldest. The Autry assumed possession of it when the organizations merged in 2003. The Southwest Museum holds one of many nation’s most vital collections of indigenous artwork and artifacts, for which the Autry cares. However teams similar to Buddies of the Southwest Museum Coalition and residents of the world have argued that the shuttered 1914 constructing and grounds ought to reopen as a museum unto itself. The Autry has stated the price of updating and working the constructing, together with seismic structural enhancements, could be prohibitive.

In Spring 2019, along with the Nationwide Belief for Historic Preservation, West started the sophisticated means of looking for to transfer ownership of the Southwest Museum. Conversations between town, L.A. County and the Autry concerning the Southwest Museum’s future are still in progress.

In 2015 West modified the museum’s identify from the Autry Nationwide Middle of the American West — a reputation it had passed by since 2004, representing the Autry, the newly-acquired Southwest Museum and a brand new analysis arm, the Institute for the Examine of the American West, for which Aron was founding govt director. Autry Museum of the American West was extra streamlined and Google-friendly, whereas the outdated identify, West told the Los Angeles Times in 2015, “is a little bit of a misnomer and outdated.”

Through the COVID-19 disaster and nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, the Autry launched gathering initiatives to doc the pandemic and the protests for future generations. Boyd-Pates is curating the “Gathering Neighborhood Historical past Initiative: The West Throughout Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter Protests within the West,” buying and preserving ephemera — handwritten journals, images, recipes, protest posters, face masks and different PPE — from this second in historical past.

Aron, who joined UCLA’s historical past division in 1996, helped to safe a grant for the initiative from the UCLA Historical past Division’s Luskin Middle for Historical past and Coverage.

The venture, Aron stated within the announcement Tuesday, “exemplifies the methods wherein Rick West and the Autry employees have tackled the variety and complexity of the American West, blazing a path that I intend to observe.”

West will keep on on the Autry for such an unusually very long time, till subsequent summer season, as a result of he feels it’s vital to information the museum via what he hopes is the worst of the pandemic.

In one thing of a programmatic exit ceremony, West will host a sequence of occasions, digital to start out, over the following 12 months that contact on museum traits, COVID-19, and up to date Native American artwork, amongst different matters.

“I’ve nice confidence in Stephen Aron, I’m thrilled he’s my successor,” West stated. “As for myself, I don’t play golf, I’m not heading in that route. I’m nonetheless concerned with a lot of Native-connected or museum-connected organizations, and I’ll simply proceed to do these sorts of issues, the weather that at all times impressed and drove me.”

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