Autry Museum of Western Heritage

Los Angeles, California


photo, ©1999 John Hazeltine



John L.Gray: New Executive Director at Autry Museum of Western Heritage


John L. Gray, Photo by Harvey Branman

Jackie Autry, Chairman of the Board at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, recently announced the selection of John L.Gray as the new Executive Director. "We are extremely pleased to have John join the museum team," says Autry. "With his extensive background in business and finance and work in nonprofits, we look forward to John taking the museum into new and exciting directions as we enter the next century," Mrs. Autry said in her announcement. Mr. Gray assumed his new duties on June 1, 1999.

Joanne Hale, President and CEO of the Autry, announced in August '98 that she would be retiring. Under Hale's 15-year tenure, the Autry Museum developed from just a concept to the current 148,000-square-foot building, which houses seven permanent galleries. Also, during this period the Autry developed a 45,000-art and artifact collection, and presented more than 50 special exhibitions. It received accreditation from the prestigious American Association of Museums, after just three years of operation. The Autry is one of only 738 museums that have been accredited from a national total of more than 8,000.

Regarding her plans for the future, Hale says, "Although 1 am considering working on projects that I have been invited to participate in, and am planning to spend more time with my family, my commitment to the museum will continue." Mrs. Hale will remain on the Board of Directors.

Since it opened in 1988, with planning started in 1983, the Autry continues to attract half a million visitors annually, including 42,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students in guided tours. The museum's success with children comes from the efforts of the Autry's Education Division, which is responsible for scheduling classes and workshops for children and their families. This division also schedules lectures, symposiums, music, theater, and film series. Through the Museum's Research Center, scholars and researchers have access to rare documents that are representative of Western society.

John Gray, 50, comes to the Autry Museum with extensive business and nonprofit experience in Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Mr. Gray was most recently Associate Deputy Administrator for Capital Access with the Small Business Administration in Washington. His prior business experience includes more than 15 years with First Interstate Bank, both in Denver and Los Angeles, where he was Executive Vice President and Manager, Real Estate Division. "I'm excited about returning to L.A.," Gray says, "and I am thrilled to be joining the staff of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. I want to thank Jackie Autry, Joanne Hale, and the museum's Board of Directors for making this extraordinary opportunity available to me."

Gray's nonprofit and community work has involved being a board member and Finance and Fundraising Chair of the Bella Lewitsky Dance Company for several years here in Los Angeles; Board Chairman of Historic Denver, Inc., a preservation advocacy organization; Chairman, Mile High Transplant Bank, in Denver; founding member of The Los Angeles Community Development Bank; a founding board member and Chairman for the California Community Investment Corporation and vice-chair of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders.


Facing the Challenges of the Future

Concerning the assignment of measuring up to Joanne Hale's achievements during her tenure, Gray comments, "Building on Joanne's remarkable leadership will be a wonderful yet challenging task. The exploration, documentation, and preservation of our Western Heritage will lead all of us to a much greater understanding and appreciation of our present circumstances and what our future holds."


About the Autry Museum: Its Beginnings

As founding Executive Director, and later as President and CEO of the Autry Museum, Joanne Hale was instrumental in the planning (which took 5 years) and construction of this museum which opened to the public in 1988. She also played a significant role in defining the museum's mission -- to preserve and interpret the history and traditions of the American West, as well as to explore the region's cultural diversity.

Ms. Hale was originally recruited for the museum 15 years ago by Gene and Jackie Autry, long-time friends and associates familiar with her extensive background in business and strong leadership skills. In the 10 years since its opening, the Autry has presented more than 50 special exhibitions, many of them paying tribute to the diverse populations that built the West.

The original idea for an institution devoted to Western heritage was Gene Autry's. Long a collector of artifacts and fine art relating to the American West, Gene begin thinking of a museum as early as the 1950s. His love for the rugged land that stretches across the Great Plains and the Rockies all the way to the Pacific, and for the people who built communities upon it, was his biggest inspiration. He hoped to share his extensive personal collection, including important paintings and bronzes, historic crafts and firearms, Native American relics, and Western film memorabilia. Gene Autry wanted to ensure that the rich and varied history of those who settled and documented the West, and those who made their lives here, would be forever understood and remembered.

Read more about the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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