Founded in 1955, Downey Museum of Art has called Furman Park in the City of Downey home. In March 2009, city cancelled its lease due to legal troubles in the organization. Museum has been closed and sits vacant since 2009. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

Founded in 1955, Downey Museum of Art has called Furman Park in the City of Downey home. In March 2009, city cancelled its lease due to legal troubles in the organization. Museum has been closed and sits vacant since 2009. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

Four years has brought change to the local art scene in the City of Downey due to the closure in 2009 of the 54-year-old Downey Museum of Art (DMOA) that opened in 1955 in Furman Park due to legal trouble in the organization.

According to an article on Downeybeat.com, there were a series of events prior to the city canceling its lease with the museum in 2009 and the 400-piece art collection moving into a storage facility.

The closure of DMOA was sparked by a “meltdown” of the board according to the DowneyBeat.com as well as lawsuit that was filed against DMOA and the former curator Kate Davies by a former associate, Anita McGarr.

The museum had hoped to celebrate its 50th anniversary of the DMOA by developing a $27.9 million building plan for a new facility called the Glidehouse. In order to help with funding for the new building, the organization decided on holding a raffle but after disagreements about the raffle and contracts to pay the raffle organizer McGarr, the board president at the time Carmella Spencer and McGarr resigned from the organization.

McGarr filed a lawsuit in February 2009 for back pay that she said she was owed totaling $383,000 for a contract that was for $2,000 a week for her services according to the article. In February 2011, McGarr dropped the lawsuit and did not receive a penny from the lawsuit according to the article.

In October 2010, DMOA received a letter from the Attorney General’s office putting the organization on notice of intent to suspend or revoke the organization’s registration to conduct business due to failure to file renewals and financial reports dating back to 2003.

Downtown Downey area is located on Downey Ave and has seen an increase in traffic with the revitalization of the area. This is home to the new Stay Gallery as well as new businesses and restaurants. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

Downtown Downey area is located on Downey Ave and has seen an increase in traffic with the revitalization of the area. This is home to the new Stay Gallery as well as new businesses and restaurants. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

George Redfox, who is the current board of directors president for the DMOA said, “That was just an oversight by the previous management. They didn’t keep good records at that time in their history. I am actually the one who filled out all the back paperwork to get the museum back up to date.”

According to the Attorney General’s website, DMOA is update to with all the fillings that were requested and is currently registered as an active charity.

Our goal is to be back in the building by the end of this year. The city however, has not been very supportive of us moving back in,” he said.

If the art collection does not go back into a museum, DMOA would need to sell, donate or give the work to another museum.

“If we don’t get the building back, we will most likely have to give the collection to another museum possible the Getty,” Redfox said.

The Stay Gallery opened in 2012 in the downtown Downey area and has collaborated with Downey Museum of Art to hold exhibits featuring the museums art collection. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

The Stay Gallery opened in 2012 in the downtown Downey area and has collaborated with Downey Museum of Art to hold exhibits featuring the museums art collection. Photo by: Alicia Edquist

The members of the board are working closely with other local art venues in the city so that the collections can go into exhibits for the community to see. Currently, the new Stay Gallery is hosting a short exhibition for some of the artwork in the collection.

“We have been collaborating with both the Stay Gallery and Downey Arts Coalition. We also have worked with Mexican artist “Calixto” and Roy Shabla on some of his events,” Redfox said.

DMOA is trying to work on becoming a presence back in the community since the closure.

“As for right now we are trying to do pop-up shows and events that will get the DMOA name back out into the community,” he said.

Veronica Valles, long-time Downey resident feels the museum is important to the community.

“As a resident, I feel it’s original location is important because it easily accessible. Residents can walk to it and since its in the park the programs that run out of the main buildings can incorporate the museum into their curriculum as well as the schools surrounding it,” she said.

DMOA was first contemporary art museum in the Los Angeles area, has a rich history of having exhibits, workshops and educational tours for residents and schools in surrounding areas.