By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
For a community that has been historically neglected, the approval of a 20 year lease agreement that will allow for a permanent space for the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center, represents a long-overdue victory.
Supporters of the nonprofit organization that aims to share the history and stories of Chicanos in San Diego celebrated the unanimous approval votes in favor of the museum and cultural center Tuesday, Aug. 7.
The nonprofit Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center will now have the ability to rent the property from the city and transform a building adjacent to Chicano Park into a museum and cultural center for the community and visitors.
Josephine Talamantez, founder of the museum and cultural center, spoke before the San Diego City Council on Tuesday and explained why the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center is important to the community.
“The community of Logan Heights/Barrio Logan has been the driving economic workforce for the city of San Diego for over 100 years and has paid the price of discrimination, marginalization, and isolation through segregation practices for the majority of that time,” Talamantez said before the council on Tuesday.
She added that Chicano Park, which was threatened during the 1970s when the city planned to build a police station in its place, became a tipping point for the relationship between the community and city when activist convinced the city to back down.
“Fifty years later we are prepared to tell our story and the wonderful contributions our community and community members have added to the well-being of the city, state, and nation,” Talamantez said.
Councilmember David Alvarez spoke in support of the museum and cultural center and thanked Talamantez for her dedication to the project.
Back in 1997, Talamantez began exploring the idea of placing the park and the murals on the National Register because of retrofitting plans of the Coronado Bridge that could damage the murals.
Finally on Jan. 23, 2013, Chicano Park and the Monumental Murals were officially placed on the National Register and in December 2016, the park became a National landmark.
Although they did not have a permanent building, the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center has been actively involved in the community.
“Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center has a history of strong community outreach and community service,” April McCusker, program manager for the Real Estates Assets Department, said. “This group will be able to continue fulfilling their mission of sharing a rich historic culture by bringing the museum adjacent to Chicano Park, expanding their program offerings in achieving their goal, which is to enrich the lives of the community, of surrounding community and to visitors and the City of San Diego.”
Once it is up and running, the museum and cultural center will have a information and welcome area for new visitors, a gallery and exhibition room for local artists, educational opportunities, conference and meeting rooms, as well as an archive room.
Located on 1960 National Ave., the building was first acquired by the city in 1972 and it was a community building and educational building before being turned over to parks and recreation in 2015. The building has been empty since then.
The Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center will pay an annual nonprofit rent of $3,597 per year, according to City staff.