The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo: Alex Vertikoff.

LACMA Plans to Expand to South Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is planning to open a satellite campus in South Los Angeles in order to bring its programming to more underserved communities, Jori Finkel of the New York Times reports. The region, formerly known as South Central, is a historically African American neighborhood that was infamous for its gang violence. It was rebranded as South LA by the Los Angeles City Council in 2003.

“If you look at a map of LA’s public schools, the dots representing the neediest students are all through South Los Angeles,” LACMA director Michael Govan told the New York Times. “You start thinking, where can the value of your collection and program be the greatest, when you’re behind a big fancy fence on Wilshire Boulevard or out in the community?” 

The city council has scheduled a vote on whether to give the museum a thirty-five-year lease for an 80,000-square-foot building in Wetlands Park on Friday. The facility would need to be renovated, but it would serve around 9,500 students. “I don’t see any real obstacles,” said city councilman Curren D. Price Jr. “LACMA’s presence here is going to be very, very significant—part of a larger corridor for arts, recreation, and education.” The museum is also interested in a second property, and is looking at the former location of Ujima housing project. Located in Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park, the site could help revitalize the recreational public space. Govan expressed that two locations would be better than one. In addition to bringing exhibitions, educational initiatives, and other events to multiple neighborhoods in South LA, the new outposts would also provide the museum with more art storage—it currently pays for off-site storage.


If LACMA acquires the Wetlands Park location, it estimates it would have to launch a capital campaign to raise between $25 and $30 million for transforming the site. While the museum has already received a $2 million flexible grant from the Ford Foundation in support of the initiative—which the foundation’s president Darren Walker called “a radical idea”—it is also fundraising for the Peter Zumthor redesign of its main Wilshire campus, and currently still needs at least $200 million.