Nestled into a corner of Griffith Park, The Autry National Center of the American West keeps a low profile compared to flashier LA museums like LACMA, MOCA, and the forthcoming Broad. More than just cowboy culture, however, their singular commitment to art and artifacts of the West ranges from exhibitions like “California’s Designing Women,” a century-long survey of the prominent role of female designers in the state, to “Route 66: The Road and the Romance,” a show dedicated to Americans’ peripatetic search for freedom through movement.
The Autry is now hoping to increase their engagement with the greater LA community by soliciting submissions for a public art project, High Five Art. Artists are invited to submit designs for a 49’ x 19’ banner that will reflect or comment on contemporary notions of the American West, “whether it’s community and diversity, freeway culture and the built environment, or elements of light and space,” according to Autry Chief Curator Amy Scott. The banner will be hung on the Autry’s back wall, visible to the 5 Freeway as well as the Los Angeles River. This puts the project in line with other recent initiatives to revitalize the LA River, such as Play the LA River and SPARC’s Great Wall and Green Bridge Projects.
Submissions are due February 1, after which time a selection committee will choose three finalists. Between March 1 and April 15, the public will vote, with the winning banner being installed in May. The winner will received $2500 and the two runners-up, $500 each. The banner will be up for at least a year.
The project sounds like a promising way to increase the museum’s visibility, but the choice to install a digitally-printed banner instead of a traditionally-painted mural is curious, especially since it’s going to be up for year. The cost and difficulty of painting something this large in a high location are certainly considerations, but given California’s strong mural tradition, it would seem to be a natural fit for a museum celebrating the heritage and material culture of the American West.