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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Controversy over historic Gibson House

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

YoloArts slated to take over management at Gibson House

YoloArts is in the process of taking over the historic Gibson House museum, which the Yolo County Historical Museum group is currently running. Some community members are not content with this change and are now petitioning against the new authorization, claiming that the museum will lose its historic roots.

Alison Flory, the YoloArts executive director, explained YoloArts’ intentions once they gain ownership of the house.

“We want to honor and preserve the Gibson House for future generations,” Flory said via email. “The mansion will continue to host exhibitions that are reminiscent of a historic home and facilitate key programming like the 3rd grade school tours. The Gibson Gardner’s program will remain and expand. YoloArts will also be working closely with the new County Curator to find a balance between the display and preservation of historic objects in the collection.”

Even though the Gibson House will have a change in management, YoloArts still wants to extend the house rather than hinder its historical attributes. It plans to bring together the arts, history and culture of Yolo County through exhibitions and programming, which will extend into the mansion and the rest of the property in order to integrate different disciplines.

“YoloArts’ plan is to expand the vision of the Gibson House and property to be a cultural center,” Flory said. “For example, public and educational programming will include classes, lectures, and the showcasing of performing arts. We want to welcome in a diverse audience, giving them the opportunity to engage in new interests and ideas that nurture understanding and appreciation for different creative expressions.”

Flory recognizes the petition’s important contribution to the ongoing discourse about arts and history surrounding the house.

“We understand the passion,” Flory said via email. “We recognizing the time, energy, and care that has been contributed to the Gibson House over the years. It is great to have so much community discussion around arts and history.”

Matt Rexroad, the Yolo County supervisor, is also in support of YoloArts managing the house.

“I support the idea of YoloArts taking over the Gibson House because I think that they will do a better job managing and taking care of it and preserving that piece of Yolo County history for years to come,” Rexroad said.

Rexroad believes that changes will be made to improve the house, rather than keep it in a stagnant state.

“There will be changes for the better,” Rexroad said. “We will be able to have a lot more people come through the facility and be able to look at the architecture of the house and pieces of the collection. I’m hoping that there will be change.”

Rexroad emphasized that YoloArts must acknowledge the petition; however, he still stands by the organization as he looks at the bigger picture.

“Petitions are fine — the reality is that we have a responsibility to lead and take care of that,” Rexroad said. “Having grown up in Woodland, I toured [the house] in the 3rd grade, and I haven’t been back since. I’d like to see YoloArts take over so that people would have a reason to come back and that their kids can come back continually throughout their primary education.”

Jenny Lillge, a board member of the Yolo County Historical Museum, is against YoloArts taking ownership of the house.

“In terms of this board and organization as a whole, there has been ups and downs like all nonprofits,” Lillge said. “The museum faced challenges — we had an executive director who tried to resign. Around that same time, we received information that some of the items in the collection were not doing very well, and the conditions for which they were being stored weren’t up to archival standards. At that point, we didn’t take action on this because it seemed like the county wanted to look at everything before we let any drastic changes [occur], and we let the county fall to that.”

Lillge defended the house and the board members, as they were criticized because of county mandates.

“Prior to that, we had a collections committee among our board members and they have been going through our items to figure out what did not belong,” Lillge said. “The county had shut that down because of concerns over the excession policy. That’s just one of the many frustrating elements of this situation in that we’re being criticized for our care of the collection when part of the criticism is the result of county mandates.”

Lillge started the petition, which is based on a platform in order to get the word out and elicit support from the community.

“To us it’s not good enough — we’ve already seen their proposal,” Lillge said. “We know that history is not their focus. We would like them to focus on art elsewhere and let us continue to have our history museum. There is a reason why 4,369 people have signed the petition — because they also think that the Gibson House should be a history museum.”

It is not known yet when YoloArts will be managing the museum; however, there will be supervisor meetings with representatives to figure out this transition and draft a contract.

 

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org

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