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Beta Main, a former test site for the Main Museum in Los Angeles.

ArtCenter College of Design Opens Outpost in Former Home of Los Angeles’s Main Museum

The ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, has announced that it will open a new satellite location along gallery row in the Old Bank District of downtown Los Angeles. The site formerly housed the Main Museum, which partially opened in 2016 as an institution dedicated to LA’s local art scene but abruptly shuttered last year.

A noncollecting institution, the Main was founded by Tom Gilmore and Jerri Perrone, who are partners in the real estate development and management company Gilmore Associates. The couple had hired architect Tom Wiscombe to help them develop three derelict buildings at Fourth and Main Streets that they purchased two decades ago. They intended to transform it into a contemporary art museum that would feature 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, a rooftop sculpture garden, and an amphitheater.

The project was expected to cost around $50 million, and construction was slated to take four years to complete, which means the museum was supposed to fully open to the public in 2020. In the interim, the institution launched Beta Main, billed as a “test site” for the Main. The ground floor space at 114 West Fourth Street hosted a series of public programs and would eventually serve as the main entrance for the museum. 

In May 2018, the institution announced that it was entering a long-term partnership with the ArtCenter College of Design that would allow the school to stage programming in the museum’s Hellman Building. However, Carolina A. Miranda of the Los Angeles Times reports that Main director Allison Agsten stepped down along with two other staffers at the end of 2018, and questions directed to Agsten and Gilmore about what happened went unanswered. 

Despite the uncertainty about why the Main ultimately ceased operations, the ArtCenter has arranged to lease the 11,500-square-foot building at 114 West Fourth Street from Gilmore and Perrone for $1 a year for the next ten years. Now called ArtCenter DTLA, the space will be inaugurated with “Going Clear,” an exhibition of artwork from students in the college’s graduate program, on May 16.

Commenting on the new space, ArtCenter president Lorne M. Buchman said: “We’re grateful to Tom and Jerri for their generosity in providing us with this new downtown space. We plan to serve as a resource to the LA art community by presenting exhibitions and programs integrating the mission of the former Main Museum with the mission of ArtCenter.”

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