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LACMA is headed to South LA. Here's how it will serve the community

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LACMA is coming to South Los Angeles. The L.A. City Council just approved a 35-year lease for an 84,000-square-foot building at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park.

LACMA is headed to South Los Angeles. On Friday, the L.A. City Council approved a 35-year lease for an 80,000-square-foot building at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park.

LACMA plans to turn the space into an "art-hub" by bringing in "host exhibitions, art education, recreational and cultural programming for youth and families in the surrounding communities." The museum's director Michael Govan is leading the charge on this expansion, and he spoke with A Martinez about the overall vision for the satellite campus.

The Space

The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park sits on nine acres of land, which includes features such as walking trails, wetlands, a small park and a long-vacant building that the museum just leased for a one-of-a-kind collaboration.

South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, LACMA's new satellite campus in South L.A.
JuanCarlos Chan
South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, LACMA's new satellite campus in South L.A.

Why move to South L.A.?

"There are literally thousands of kids within the vicinity of this park so the whole area is buzzing with the excitement of revitalization," said City Councilmember Curren Price. Price represents the 9th district, where the new satellite campus is located.

It's hard not to think about urban lights and the miracle mile when it comes to LACMA, but Govan wants to change that with this campus.

Govan: "The idea was to branch LACMA out into communities that were interested in having culture, acknowledge that Los Angeles County is vast and spread out and that there are communities in which it's inconvenient for schools and people to travel great distances to actually to come to LACMA proper and can't we bring some of the art and resources to those communities?"

The LACMA team hopes to bring accessibility to schools, after-school programs, a space for lectures, movies, music and an art library. Specific plans haven't been made due to Govan and his team continuing to meet with the community to get a better sense of how to serve them.

When Price spoke to A Martinez about the collaboration, he echoed Govan's sentiments.

Price: "When you're talking about services to an underserved area, this is a classic location. You know how important arts, culture, education is and bringing a facility like this, that has the resources that the L.A. County Museum has, it's just going to be extraordinary."

Where's the money coming from?

The museum is expected to shoulder the majority of the costs.

Price: "The lease as proposed would be a dollar a year. LACMA would be responsible for all capital improvements that are going to be required. So we're really excited about their confidence in the area and their commitment to our community."

Govan has some history of renovating spaces for art. He's been involved in restoring spaces from L.A. to New York, but when it comes to the South L.A. wetlands campus, he wants to keep it the same, though for safety reasons it may not be feasible.

Govan: "My dream, of course, is to make very little changes. The realities of L.A.'s seismic code and other things may mean that it may have to go under more extensive renovation, but that's still to be seen. In essence, we'd like to have art galleries so that exhibitions that are organized for LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard or from our collections can be placed there, short and long-term..."

The museum is already expanding it's Wilshire campus. With this new satellite campus on its plate, it's expected to need a lot more money.

Govan: "We will need to raise a lot of capital. You know the project could cost easily $25 million plus, just because it's a large building... L.A. is not going to run out of money doing this project. In fact in my philanthropy in seeking funds I really think that often to give and to create things like this, it's a gift to those donors."

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