Well, it’s official now, Maurice and Paul Marciano announced Friday that the Marciano Art Foundation will remain closed permanently.
“The Marciano Art Foundation started as a vision to create a space of freedom, creativity and education for artists and the public. The Foundation’s only goal was to give back to Greater Los Angeles by fostering an appreciation of the arts accessible to everyone and free to the public. We are grateful to the public and the art community for their enthusiastic support of this ambitious project and all that we have accomplished during the past two and a half years. It was truly fulfilling to see thousands of visitors enjoy the exhibitions we had the good fortune of putting together with such inspiring artists,” according to a press release.
Last month, MAF abruptly closed after laying off its entire visitor services staff (the museum’s part-time docents, greeters, guards and others). The move came just days after those employees filed a petition to unionize with District Council 36 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The LA Times reported that the union “will proceed with an unfair-labor-practice filing against the Marciano Art Foundation. Employees allege that the layoffs and closure were an attempt to bust the union. It’s unclear whether the foundation will try to evolve into another type of art institution, such as a lending organization.”
It is also unclear what will happen to the building.
“The landmark Scottish Rite Cathedral Building, between Lucerne and Plymouth Boulevards, has a been a part of Windsor Square since its construction and opening more than 50 years ago,” John H. Welborne, Vice-president for Planning and Land Use of the Windsor Square Association, told the Buzz on Saturday.
“In its initial decades, it was a showplace for its Masonic owners and was not a bad neighbor. However, in later years, there were a couple of decades when its illegal operation was a nuisance to the community. But, subsequent to the Marciano Art Foundation’s purchase and remodeling of the building, the problems of previous decades went away. The Foundation has been a good steward for its property and a good neighbor. Foundation leaders always have been responsive to neighborhood issues and impacts from their operations,” added Welborne.
“At this point, we know nothing of the Foundation’s future plans for its property, but I assume that it will be used like most privately owned properties in the Park Mile Specific Plan area, as a facility for the benefit of the building’s owners. Many in the neighborhood enjoyed the several afternoons per week when the building was open to the public for free, but there was no requirement that the owners provide such public access to their private property. We certainly are interested in learning what changes, if any, transpire with respect to this historic building in Windsor Square. However, because the Foundation has been a good neighbor in the past, I expect that that will remain the case in years to come,” said Welborne.
As we reported in November, the property is currently permitted for use as a museum, so any new owner or tenant would need city approval for a change of use and a Conditional Use Permit before doing anything else with the building. The new use also would need to be listed in the Park Mile Specific Plan, which dictates specific uses allowed on that section of Wilshire Blvd. The process and approvals required would indicate that any immediate change in use or occupation is unlikely and should not happen without significant community review.