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Press Releases Walker Art Center Receives Over $1M In Grants From The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Awards Will Support Cross-Disciplinary Research, Performance Commissions, and Artist Residencies

Minneapolis, July 24, 2012—The Walker Art Center has received three grants totaling $1,084,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grants will allow the Walker to advance its unique multidisciplinary mission by supporting new scholarship on the intersection between dance and the visual arts, as well as commissions and residencies for artists creating innovative new performance works.

The grants include a four-year, $384,000 award to support continuing research on and care of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company collection. The Walker acquired this comprehensive archive of set pieces, costumes, painted drops, and other performance objects in 2011.

Over the course of a nearly 70-year career, Cunningham redefined the visual and performing arts through pioneering collaborations with leading artists, designers, and musicians. More than 2,000 objects, created by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, John Cage, Rei Kawakubo, and Frank Stella as part of collaborations with Cunningham, are now part of the Walker’s permanent collection. Grant funds from the Mellon Foundation will allow the Walker to conduct significant new research on the objects in this landmark collection, as well as on the artists who made them and the dancers who performed with them.

“We are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Mellon Foundation,” said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso. “The Foundation has made a commitment to supporting Merce Cunningham’s groundbreaking work throughout his career, and this grant will allow the Walker to carry on Merce’s legacy and become one of the world’s key centers for Cunningham research.”

The Mellon Foundation awards also include a $400,000 grant to support performing arts commissions, production residencies, and global performance programs. The award will support a minimum of 16 commissions, 16 presentations, and 10 production residencies for the Walker’s Commissioning and Production Residency Program; and 16 presentations by non-Western performing artists and at least four curatorial travel trips as part of the Walker’s Contemporary Global Performance Program over the next four years. The award is a renewal of a three-year pilot project grant made in 2008 that allowed Walker staff to research and introduce to U.S. audiences new artists from key creative capitals in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a result of the grant, the Walker also was supported to commission, actively develop, and present performances and residencies by artists including Ralph Lemon, Sarah Michelson, Improbable Theater’s Julian Crouch, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and many more.

The Foundation’s grants to the Walker also include a $300,000 award supporting production residencies and commissions by American dance artists The award will support six major new American dance projects, with significant commission levels, in-depth residencies for four projects, team-based approaches to project management, a range of rich interpretative and curatorial resources, dramaturgical support, and essential staffing to allow the projects to be fully implemented. The grant is a renewal of a two-year award made in 2010 that allowed the Walker to take the lead in commissioning, developing, and presenting ambitious new work by Big Dance Theater, Bill T Jones, Eiko & Koma, and Miguel Gutierrez.

“These generous grants enabled us to continue to significantly support and develop the work of some of America’s most influential and exciting performing artists, as well as allowing us to research, identify, and introduce groundbreaking artists from around the world to the Twin Cities and often to the U.S.,” said Philip Bither, the Walker’s senior curator of performing arts. “Together, all three of these grants support the Walker’s ongoing commitment to contemporary performance, which has been an integral part of the Walker’s history since we presented our first live performances here in 1940. The Mellon Foundation continues to be a visionary partner in ensuring the Walker’s performance program serves the critical needs of leading artists as well as the national field of performing arts.”

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, formed in 1969 by the consolidation of foundations established by the children of Andrew W. Mellon, supports five core program areas: higher education and scholarship; scholarly communications and information technology; art history, conservation and museums; the performing arts; and conservation and the environment. The Foundation develops thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invests sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results.

Walker research fellow Abigail Sebaly assesses items from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company collection. Photo: Gene Pittman