Walker Art Center

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Press Releases Walker Art Center Appoints Nisa Mackie New Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs

MINNEAPOLIS, MN March 31, 2015—The Walker Art Center has announced the appointment of Nisa Mackie as Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs. Hailing from New South Wales, Australia, Mackie comes to the Walker after successfully managing public programs at the Biennale of Sydney.

Mackie will lead the Walker’s nationally recognized education and public programs department known for its innovations in artist residencies, public programs, teen education, children and family programs, and experiments in onsite and online engagement and interpretation efforts that bring together a diverse and broad range of local and international artists and audiences.

“Nisa brings a dynamic global perspective from her extensive work at one of the largest and most highly regarded Biennale platforms for contemporary art and in-depth experience working at a fast-paced multi-disciplinary art center. From large-scale artist projects and efforts to expand scholarship in contemporary art, to participatory programs and innovative new learning initiatives, Nisa brings a unique ability as a programmer, public engagement specialist, and arts administrator to this vital role,” said Walker Artistic Director Fionn Meade.

Mackie has organized programs and residencies featuring a wide range of artists, including Douglas Gordon, Nathan Coley, Gabriel Lester, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fred Tomaselli, AES+F, and Darius Miksys, among others. Recent conferences and symposia include The Amorous Procedure, a symposium that investigated phenomenological approaches to beauty from both scientific and philosophical perspectives; Dream Factory, a forum exploring the perceptual legacy of cinema, organized with curator and art historian Russell Ferguson; and the research-based program Asia Arts Literacy.

Having worked across multiple editions of the Bienniale of Sydney, Mackie has collaborated with a range of curators and thinkers including Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, David Elliott, Juliana Engberg, and Stephanie Rosenthal. Mackie’s recent experience also includes a residency with Manifesta 10, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art, in St. Petersburg, where she worked with the M10 curatorial team to train college-aged mediators across the exhibition.

Mackie’s work regarding access and outreach includes the management of an art and dementia program for site-specific installations for the 19th Biennale of Sydney, the development of an Auslan vodcast tour of permanent works at Casula Powerhouse and the organization of a range of discursive, practical and community cultural development projects with the diverse communities of Sydney and New South Wales. In her role at the Biennale of Sydney, Mackie worked with the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, and the National Art School to develop programs, host artist and scholar residencies, and support student professional development, including engaging students as primary educators for the biennale’s on-site mediation program. Recent engagement projects Mackie developed include Biennale Bootcamp, an integrated program that mixed performance, exercise and wellness with mediated tours of time-based art and installation, and Storytime at the Village, part of the 2014 Sydney Biennale, a collaborative community project that presented local stories and fables developed with a range of community groups.

Prior to her role at the Biennale, she worked at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre as Producer, Public and Education Program. Mackie has served on boards and advisory groups for Museums and Galleries New South Wales and Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group, among others. Mackie has a Master of Art in Sculpture, Performance and Installation, and Art Theory from the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales. She has a Bachelor in Creative Arts Administration from Macquarie University, New South Wales.

In 2015, the Walker Art Center celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding as a public art center dedicated to presenting and collecting the art of our times with a series of institutional initiatives, exhibitions and events beginning in the fall of 2014 and extending into 2015. Although it was more than 125 years ago when lumber baron Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker built a room onto his Minneapolis house, mounted his 20 favorite paintings on the wall, and opened his door to the community, it was in 1940 that the Walker’s contemporary-focused mission to be a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and active engagement of audiences was born. Supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Walker became a public art center presenting the work of living artists, forming a collection beyond the 19th century holdings of its founder to the multidisciplinary works of today’s artists. Daniel Defenbacher, the Walker’s first director, set forth the concept of a multidisciplinary center for the WPA, and in 1939, embarked on the largest community art center launch of his career: the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. On January 4, 1940, the new Walker Art Center opened its doors.

On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the Walker is undertaking several institutional initiatives including a campus renovation, a capital campaign and staff appointments. A robust program of exhibitions is planned including the major historical surveys International Pop and Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, and the contemporary solo exhibitions of contemporary artists Liz Deschenes, Andrea Büttner and Lee Kit. Two exhibitions, Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections and 75 Gifts for 75 Years, underscore gifts and acquisitions that have consistently breached the boundaries of media or disciplines. These initiatives build on the rich traditions of the Walker as a center for cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement, started by Defenbacher in 1940.

Nisa Mackie

Photo: ©Nick May