I believe the more ways people have to connect with each other, the more we are able to develop social capital. And the more social capital we have, the stronger community we have. Places such as the Walker are critical because they provide the space for people to witness each other’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. –Onder Uluyol, Islamic Resource Group Director
As we reflect on fiscal year 2014, our nation and the world continue to experience some very challenging times. From the streets of Ferguson and New York City to villages in Syria and Pakistan, we’re witnessing an array of social and political transformations that affect us all as societies and citizens of a larger globe. These times have reinforced as never before the critical role that cultural institutions such as the Walker can play in offering spaces and platforms for productive dialogue and debate around the many questions that shape us and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities. In the spirit of the Walker’s mission to address such questions and to be a catalyst for the creative expressions of artists and the active engagement of audiences, we embrace that role as an active agent by supporting new artworks that cut across the diverse programmatic disciplines we host and by serving as an engaged community partner and convener around issues that affect our world and the communities in which we live.
In the weeks following the recent court decision surrounding Ferguson, artist Theaster Gates’s participatory artwork in the exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art became a platform for frank discussions about race in our country and our city as artists, educators, and politicians, including Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, hosted public dialogues at Gates’s conversation table. Embracing conversation online as well, we launched the Artist Op-Ed series this summer to invite artists to comment on the day’s headlines. Dread Scott offered an urgent commentary on Ferguson and the racial divide that persists. And a new partnership with the Islamic Resource Group forged in early 2014 led to our hosting Tracks in the Snow: The Minnesota Muslim Experience Since 1880, a project that combines photography and oral histories of the state’s Muslim community. In addition to these ongoing efforts to foster exchange and mutual understanding as well as support racial and ethnic diversity in our state, the past fiscal year saw myriad programs that both blurred artistic disciplines and embraced outside collaboration. It truly was a year of partnership within the Walker, throughout the community of local and national artists as well as with our audiences. And, as Islamic Resource Group Director Onder Uluyol notes, these engagements led to the development of more social capital on which to build stronger communities.
We welcomed more than 680,000 people to our campus this year, including some 400,000 who came to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to take part in the conclusion of the Garden’s 25th anniversary, made possible with lead sponsorship from Target. Beyond our local audiences in Minnesota, the Walker is proud to see its exhibitions and commissioned performances tour the globe. Last year, nearly 175,000 people viewed the Walker-organized exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production at six different museums, while an additional 25,000 attended Walker-commissioned performances in 34 host venues and 7 countries. This commitment to innovation and excellence continues to position the Walker as one of the top five most-visited modern and contemporary art museums nationally. We remain committed to accessibility with 77 percent of all visits to the Walker and Garden free of charge. Popular free admission days such as Target Free Thursday Nights and Free First Saturdays, sponsored by Ameriprise Financial and Medtronic Philanthropy, welcomed more than 72,000 people last year alone.
The Walker continued its commitment to the artist through both retrospectives and group exhibitions. With support from lead sponsor U.S. Bank and supporting sponsor Dorsey & Whitney, the Walker galleries featured the monumental Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties, organized by Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) in Vienna. The show, which included prized works from the Walker’s in-depth holdings of his work, focused on the formative years of this important American artist, a pioneering figure in Pop art, performance art, and installation art. With support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 9 Artists examined the changing role of the artist in contemporary culture and featured some of the most provocative and engaged artists working today.
The Andy Warhol Foundation also provided major underwriting for the mid-career retrospective of Jim Hodges, his first comprehensive survey to be organized in the United States. Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take premiered at the Dallas Museum of Art, which co-organized the show with the Walker. Following the Walker’s presentation, which was sponsored by BMO Private Bank, the exhibition traveled to ICA Boston. The presentation also inspired a commission—a new recording of avant-pop/hip-hop songs by Sisyphus, composer Sufjan Stevens’s new trio. The Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) also engaged with Hodges in a series of conversations over a six-month span of time.
The blurring of disciplines continued with joint projects between the Film/Video and Visual Arts departments. Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada included films, artworks, and artifacts that address the artist’s connection with the social and political realities that shape her hometown in that Moroccan city. With support from RBC Wealth Management, Christian Marclay’s 24-hour montage The Clock opened in June with the citywide nuit blanche festival Northern Spark, offering audiences daily screenings as well as three overnight presentations throughout the summer. Both projects received significant support from the Bentson Foundation.
These cross-disciplinary ventures have not only influenced ways that the Walker works with artists but also how we work within our organization. In February 2014, we named our first-ever senior curator of cross-disciplinary platforms. Fionn Meade, a curator and writer, now serves as a key partner to me in shaping the artistic vision of the Walker across curatorial departments. His diverse experience working in the arenas of film, performance, and museum practice makes him uniquely qualified to take on this new curatorial role at the Walker.
In spring 2014, the Walker opened its most popular exhibition of the year, Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art. With generous sponsorship from RBC Wealth Management, the Walker’s presentation welcomed more than 53,000 people during the three-month run of the show. Together, the Education and Visual Arts departments developed a fully functioning atelier-style drawing studio within the exhibition, called Old School Art School. Exploring the hidden narratives of Hopper’s paintings proved a compelling basis for the Office at Night novella, written by Laird Hunt and Kate Bernheimer and co-commissioned by the Walker and Coffee House Press.
Another leap forward in digital publishing was the launch of On Performativity, the first volume of the Living Collections Catalogue, a new online publishing platform dedicated to scholarly research on the Walker’s multidisciplinary collections, made possible by grants from the Getty Foundation as part of its Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI).
Building the Walker collections is critical to our mission. This past year, we were privileged to receive more than 60 notable gifts of art, many of which come to us from some of the Walker’s most committed longtime supporters. Chief among these was a major bequest of Lillian S. “Babe” Davis, a former Honorary Trustee who passed away in November 2012 at the age of 95. During her 43 years of service on the Walker board, Davis supported many initiatives, including the construction of the new Edward Larrabee Barnes building in 1971, the launch of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1988, and the completion of the Herzog & de Meuron expansion in 2005. Together with her late husband, Julius, Davis donated and purchased more than 50 works of art for the Walker. Her substantial bequest includes some 32 additional key works. We are honored to be the beneficiary of the Davis’s extraordinary generosity and their decades of service.
Tracking more recent developments in artistic practice, the curators have identified a number of important moving-image works to enter the collection, reflecting the global scope of their current research. Steve McQueen, an artist who was the subject of a Walker Dialogue and Retrospective and the recipient of an Academy Award for his film 12 Years a Slave, is now represented in the Walker’s collection with his slide-projection piece Once Upon a Time (2002). Walker curators have also identified key works by artists who pursue expansive sculptural practices experimenting with new materials, immersive environments, and participatory forms. Finally, as we look forward to ambitious plans to renovate the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, we are identifying new acquisitions for our outdoor spaces. This year’s signature acquisition was Sam Durant’s monumental Scaffold (2012), an imposing architectural form made of wood and metal, which conflates various designs of historical gallows used in significant executions throughout US history.
The Walker collections have long extended beyond objects presented in galleries and the Garden. A major project this year, funded by the Bentson Foundation, led to the preservation and digitization of the Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Study Collection. The number of unique titles in this collection has reached 1,167.
The Performing Arts season opened with the critically acclaimed Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s _ Life and Times, Part 1_. Dance engagements included Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, French conceptual dance-theater maker Jérôme Bel, and the final historic tour of the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Of course, the most visible and largest-scale event of the year is the much-loved outdoor concert Rock the Garden, coproduced with Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 The Current. In response to overwhelming demand, the 2014 concert expanded to 2 days, increasing bands from 5 to 10 and nearly doubling attendance to 20,000.
School and Tour Programs was renamed Learning Initiatives to acknowledge the division’s service to audiences beyond schools and to welcome approaches to gallery learning outside the framework of the guided tour, while also encouraging more experimentation by our 70 volunteer tour guides with facilitating guided tours and the opportunity to highlight our cross-departmental and interdisciplinary work. More than 19,000 visitors participated in these offerings in addition to guided and self-guided tours.
The award-winning Design department continued its commitment to inventive programming through the annual Insights design lecture series, which invites designers to share their creative process with the public. The near sell-out program included a mix of established and emerging design talents. The lectures were again webcast this year and an aggressive push was made to promote these webcasts among the national AIGA chapters.
The Walker website remains a leader in online arts journalism, contextualizing the work of artists the Walker hosts and connecting to broader issues in society at large. This year, we engaged an array of journalists, critics, and artists to write for the site. Topics range from Minneapolis’s urban agriculture policies (linked to our Fritz Haeg residency), a conversation about food with author Michael Pollan, and interviews with a range of subjects, from Creative Time curator Nato Thompson to sculptor Kris Martin to Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian. Our design blog, The Gradient, continues to be the most read blog at the Walker and featured content as varied as an interview with Lance Wyman on the political context for his identity of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to a conversation with Experimental Jetset about speculative design to an interview with Steve Drain, media director for the Westboro Baptist Church, on unexpected forms of self-publishing.
I’m pleased to report that the Walker has again finished the fiscal year with a balanced budget for the 33rd consecutive year. We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our members, trustees, foundations, corporate partners, and government organizations. You have allowed us to maintain a strong financial position while presenting some of the most adventurous art and artists in exciting and innovative ways.
Avant Garden, the Walker’s annual fund-raising event, raised more than $409,000 to support the Walker’s operations and programs. Co-chaired by Walker trustee Monica Nassif and Lisa Denzer, this festive evening affair welcomed more than 800 guests to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in September 2013 and featured host Mark Wheat of 89.3 The Current. To all of our Avant Garden committee members, sponsors, and guests, I want to thank you for your generous support of this key benefit event.
I would like to thank the voters of Minnesota for supporting the Walker through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, in addition to a bonding initiative that will allow the Walker and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board to reconstruct one of our most valuable assets, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, beginning in summer 2015. For supporting all that we do at the Walker, I want to offer special thanks to our Premier Partners—Delta Air Lines, General Mills, Star Tribune, and Target. Lastly, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to the Board of Trustees under the leadership of president Jim Dayton and our staff for lending their collective talents to all that we do to achieve the Walker’s mission. Together with our visitors, members, and contributors, we can truly provide “the space for people to witness each other’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.”