My introduction to Autry happened almost more than a year or two ago I believe when I first attended a press event there and made a mental note to return but never did until yesterday. Unfortunately they didn’t have free entry on Tuesdays anymore as mentioned on their website but luckily the fee was only $14 so I didn’t have to turn back after having driven over to spend the day there. This isn’t a very large space to cover in a day but if your interested are in western history then you might spend a lot of time in just that area. Thankfully that’s their permanent exhibit so you can back often if you live in the vicinity.
They have a main lobby level and then a lower level leading out to a garden and their central event space. I was glad I got to learn more about the art of Harry Fonseca, an American artist of Nisenan Maidu, Hawaiian and Portuguese heritage. I had seen his coyote paintings before but never looked into it. Learned more here and was enlightening to see what his thought process was behind some of his pieces or where he gained inspiration from. There are videos of his partner speaking about some of the pieces that was helpful to watch. I never realized that much of his work had political undertones or was used to express himself and his surroundings as a gay man and a person of a mixed background. I am also still learning the names of different native tribes and this is the first time I came across Nisenan Maidu so I have a lot of reading up to do about both his work and his origins.
Somewhat related is the work of artist David Bradley seen through the exhibit titled Indian Country. While his art does focus on Indian history and culture, his references are to current scenarios. So don’t be surprised when you find the Clintons in one of his depictions! I really liked his style – am not an art aficionado and don’t know the terms associated with that world but his paintings have clean lines, crisp tones, solid colors and you can immediately recognize something about the subject matter as opposed to more modern and abstracts art where a lot is left to either your imagination or the artist’s interpretation. There are no photos or videos allowed in this gallery so I only have this one image shared on the blog but they have a walk-through video of his space on the museum website.
One of the smaller temporary exhibits was titled On Fire by Michael Scott and you will notice the change in the room right away as these are life size painting of land and fire. They have a seating space here so take some time to enjoy these paintings. This area is dimly lit and makes for a great contrast against the paintings that are all fiery but not disturbing, more appreciative of the elements of nature than anything else. I would have loved to see him working on one of these in real time. In this same area is a huge exhibit on Art of the West and also on the role westerns played in the movie industry, which are both equally large and interesting. You will end up spending a lot of time here.
Take a break and head downstairs for the outdoor garden area with a waterfall and lots of plant life that you can learn about or simply rest in between your visit on the benches here. Inside right next to the garden is a seating space called California Road Trip, which is video footage of a few spots in the state. If only they would let me bring a snack along, I’d just sit here and enjoy the sanctuary it provides. I completely expected the lower level to be a shorter visit but nope – they’ve got so much to see here.
The exhibit called Human Nature walks through all the natural resources of the west, the people and places that it comprises and the delicate but necessary coexistence between humans and everything around us. I certainly had no idea about the number of native peoples or tribes that called California home so this was an eye opener. The manner in which this area is organized is quite interactive and caters to audiences young and old. Plenty of spots to sit down and read everything around or experience some of the audiovisual resources. Pause to read some of the blurbs – lots of native wisdom that can be applied to life today.
This flows into Western Frontiers, which looks at cowboy culture and history, the origins and lifestyles, and has an interesting gun collection as well as section on law and order in those times. You will see a chuckwagon set up that’s almost a thing of the past except for entertainment value in many places in the country. I walked in here twice and found something new every time I turned around so this is also an area you’ll spend a lot of time in reading up as well as enjoying some fun activities like testing your cowboy vocabulary and braiding leather. The central area here called the Heritage Court has a huge wall mural by the way that you should positively check out. There is also a section on community and journeys, which is great to stop by if you like seeing how transportation worked back in the day.
The latest exhibit here is one called Investigating Griffith Park and I love what they are doing here. They are basically looking at everything GP related, from its history and people, to natural sites and manmade attractions, and everything in between. What’s fun is the way they are going about it – with community participation and collaboration. Expect to see a lot of questions for you to leave your thoughts and comments on and many ways to learn about the neighborhood and its past and present. I had to leave about this time but will certainly be back again to spend more time at the museum and in this area in particular.
The museum does have a gift store and outdoor seating area. They also have a café with a few food and drink options. You actually don’t need to enter the museum to access the gift store or the café, which is nice. Also plenty of parking for free and should you find yourself with extra time then the city zoo is right across the street. Their outdoor lawn is a common area and you can bring along a picnic to enjoy here or find a spot among some of the wooden benches to spend the afternoon reading. Check out the museum website for events – they host a bunch of stuff that is open to the public as well as special programming for members if you decide to buy a museum membership. For instance, Thursdays in the summer they have live music and dance nights with Latin bands. They also host movie screenings and special lectures and workshops. I noticed a few children’s’ activities and believe there is a calendar online to view programming for that as well. Overall, a great venue and would recommend a visit or experiencing some of their community programming.
If you’ve been, I’d like to know what you enjoyed here the most or if you are planning to go, let me know in the comments and maybe I will see you on the lawn for some music or a movie!