A little over two years ago, the community of Riverside came together in the City Council Chamber to support the Museum of Riverside (then known as the Riverside Metropolitan Museum). The issue was closing the museum for a period of three years in order to focus on meeting re-accreditation requirements and on the myriad of collections in the museum. Many people spoke of how important the museum was to our community and many were appalled at the idea of closing it. It was almost 2 a.m. before a vote was taken of the council and with promises of hearing citizen’s concerns the vote was passed to shutter the museum for a time.
Shortly after that, the council approved $15 million from Measure Z funds to renovate the museum. City and museum officials traveled to view other successful reinventions and a plan was formed. A new director with impressive credentials and experience in bringing museums into the 21st Century took the helm. Many meetings were held with community groups to discover what the community wanted in its museum. A request for quotes went public to find an architect who could help realize the resultant dream. Pffeifer Partners was awarded the job of designing a museum of both history and openness with spaces for interactive programs that was welcoming and would encourage visitors to return again and again.
Pffeifer Partners (https://pfeifferpartners.com) has a proven world-wide history of successful marrying of historic buildings with modern openness. Here is a quote from their website: “It is said that “History is what the mind remembers and history chooses to record,” and we view ourselves not only as stewards of memory and record, but as designers firmly looking to the future.” The design which the architects developed is exactly as promised. It is a beautiful marriage of an historic building and an open space with light and warmth.
HOWEVER, as we attend commission and council meetings, we are hearing that due to City fiscal issues those promises are empty. In the Budget Engagement Commission, a citizen/business commission formed to advise the Mayor and City Council on spending and policy priorities, there is a consideration to suspend or remove the promised funding for the museum. Words like ‘it is nice but not a need’ and ‘promises have to be broken’ are being heard. The vision appears to be shortsighted, only looking to take the promised funding and repurposed it for other things rather than looking at the future of the City. With the Riverside Art Museum and the ‘Cheech’, the Mission Inn, the Center for Social Justice, the new library, the new Civil Rights museum and the renovated Museum of Riverside all along Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside is poised to be a visitor’s dream. Visitors mean support not only for the venues but also for food services, hotel services (of which the City seems to think we have enough to have multiple hotels in a small area downtown), various services and shops, all of which promote a thriving, healthy community.
For our community that was involved in that monumental meeting a little over two years ago, and for those who value cultural elements for Riverside, it is time to get involved. Let your voices be heard. Follow the City calendar of meetings (https://riversideca.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx) and speak strong. Engage your friends and colleagues. Please do not let this dream be shattered.