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Latino Museum Scrambles for More Funding

Art * Downtown facility, closed since August, is almost $500,000 in debt.


In addition to back salaries owed to employees, at least half a dozen Los Angeles businesses are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to interviews with creditors. Among those owed are Photo Impact, which developed prints for the photographs in the museum's Cesar Chavez exhibit; Good Gracious catering company, which was hired for the Chavez exhibition reception; the Jerry Solomon storage, which is owed seven months of rent; Glendale Blueprint Co., which printed most of the museum's fliers and invitations; and the Los Angeles Times, which was not paid for an exhibition advertisement.

Several artists, including Francisco Toledo, one of Mexico's foremost painters, are also owed money.

Toledo's gallery in Oaxaca, Mexico, which was organizing a show of graphics for the museum set to open in November, is owed nearly $2,000 for framing 90 works intended for the exhibition, said gallery owner Claudina Lopez Morales. Lopez Morales said she has sent Lugo several e-mails and invoices but has never received a response. She said she was informed of the show's cancellation via fax in early September.

Sculptor Roberto Delgado, who created the bas-relief facade of the museum building, said he is still owed $2,000 of his $5,000 fee.

When the museum officially opened its doors in August 1998, it was still considered something of a work in progress. It had required an 11-year campaign to get the institution off the ground, and at that time, Calderon set a future fund-raising goal of $13 million. However, the museum never hired a full-time fund-raiser and in an internal memo a volunteer fund-raiser stated that the museum's failure to provide coherent financial information was dooming efforts to raise money. Former museum director Lugo has denied knowledge of the memo and said that potential donors had received the information they requested. Lugo, who worked briefly as a professor of art at Cal State L.A., but had no previous museum experience, was first named interim director at the museum in 1996, then promoted to director in 1998.

Since the opening, the museum has mounted at least seven exhibitions. According to the museum, its two most successful shows were a 1999 exhibition of Mexican poster art and the Chavez show earlier this year--each drew crowds of 5,000 at their openings. However, an exhibition on a group of Chicano artists known as Los Four--a major initiative--was repeatedly rescheduled and ultimately canceled for lack of funding.

"I am very sorry that things have turned out the way they have," said Gomez-Quinones of the museum's escalating problems since August. "It is astounding what has happened."

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