Launched in 2005, the Walker Art Center’s Premier Partners program brings together a quartet of the institution’s most generous corporate members that provide core operational support. That year, General Mills, Star Tribune, and Target increased their already leadership- level gifts, and were the first to be recognized. Delta Air Lines, building on its longtime support of Walker programming, joined as a Premier Partner in 2010, providing critical travel support.
“I say this often, but it’s always pertinent—we are truly fortunate to have such kind and committed corporate citizens as these four,” says Walker executive director Olga Viso. “They provide core unrestricted funds for our operations, as well as essential services that support curatorial research, help us bring artists to Minnesota from around the world, and keep audiences aware of the work we do.”
Executive officers from each company also serve on the Walker’s board of trustees, providing crucial leadership, experience, and guidance for the institution. “The Walker is a vital resource for our community,” says Target senior vice president Shawn Gensch, “and Target has been a proud strategic partner for decades through free nights, sponsorships, expansions and representation on the board.” Fellow trustee Mark Addicks, General Mills chief marketing officer and senior vice president, agrees. “I know a lot of our employees are also excited by what the Walker does. This partnership allows us to fundamentally undergird a major cultural asset in Minnesota.”
Delta Air Lines, for example, has played a major role in assisting the Walker to expand its global programming in multiple artistic disciplines. “We bring hundreds of artists here during each performance season,” says Philip Bither, William and Nadine McGuire Senior Curator of Performing Arts. “Delta’s travel support allows us to more easily cover costs for these productions in our McGuire Theater and also plan for contingencies. We are tremendously grateful for it.” Richard B. Hirst, Delta senior vice president and general counsel, says, “This alignment has been beneficial for us at Delta, too, given the Walker’s stellar reputation as a leading contemporary art center. We are thrilled to assist the institution in this way.”
The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune also helps the Walker increase the range of its programs through promotional support. “Our goal of reaching new audiences would be much harder without this kind of support from the Star Tribune as a Premier Partner,” notes Ryan French, the Walker’s marketing and public relations director. “They literally help us get the word out, and their broad promotion of some of our most important programs, like the 25th-anniversary celebration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden this summer, is unmatched.” Star Tribune chairman Mike Sweeney says they’re happy to do it: “The Walker has been good to our community, and we are glad to have this chance to partner with them.”
Studies have long noted that the arts are an economic driver; communities with strong creative and cultural sectors thrive. Yet it is partners such as these that truly help the Walker and the arts flourish in Minnesota.