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Education & Public Programs

There is deconstructive and transformative potential inscribed in the work of museum education departments through their invitation to the public to experience, analyze, and use art and artists’ methodologies for self-reflection and societal critique. In the context of this past year, with an unfolding US political schism, tragic events both near and far away, and the persistent lack of opportunity that exists for marginalized communities, particularly in the Twin Cities, the promise—and urgency—of this work felt particularly salient.

While facilitating access and welcoming to the Walker for all audiences is an ongoing effort for the Walker, this year the Education department also sought to specifically address community need through a realignment of program goals and frameworks of program delivery. The work was embedded in the strategic plan of the Walker itself, which prioritized a continued commitment to excellence, experimentation, and interdisciplinary investigation alongside a renewed focus on diversity, inclusion and equity.

For EPP, this took the form of small changes to internal practices, such as informal sharing sessions for staff to critically connect their work to contextual imperatives, through to the institution of parameters for the mindful inclusion of artists and organizations in remunerated work, including artists of color, with disabilities, or of LGBTQI orientation as well as from a range of geographic areas.

This year the department contracted, collaborated with, and employed more than 30 percent artists of color as educators, workshop facilitators, performers, and speakers. Highlights of these efforts include our August Free First Saturday that featured workshops and performances from a variety of multicultural community groups under the umbrella theme of “Global Games,” which was also connected to the exhibition International Pop. The program was reported across a range of local cultural media groups, such as the Algerian newspaper Echourok, and was attended by some 2,900 visitors. In Teen Programs, the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) staged a panel discussion following their engagement with the Guerrilla Girls entitled Art x Social Change as part of the Art at the Center: Guerrilla Girls exhibition opening-night celebration in January 2016. The evening featured a panel discussion with local artists and organizers working for social change with conversation ranging from strategies for self-determined practice to institutional critique. The largest free event held by the Walker this year, Winter of Love, closed out the exhibition Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia with films, music, a performance by educator/sex-positive feminist/performance artist Annie Sprinkle, and workshops for 3,375 visitors.

The vitality and new ideas from staff across the department bolstered audience engagement and attendance. This year EPP served more than 92,000 visitors through a range of programs including workshops, tours, talks, family events, screenings, and more. This represented an increase from the previous fiscal year, despite the closure of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the campus renovation project. We are grateful to the Hearst Foundation for generously supporting the Walker’s Education and Public Programs last year.

School and Tour Programs

Perhaps the most significant change this year was to the delivery of Walker school and youth education initiatives. Last year the Walker initiated a shift in the operational model of Walker Tour programs from an entirely docent-led cohort to a hybrid model, employing 13 paid educators from a range of backgrounds including practicing artists, teachers, and writers. Half of the educators are also bilingual, and many have specializations in disability and/or ELL education. These integral skills sets will inform new programs designed to accommodate key areas of need in the Twin Cities, launching in Fall 2017. The incumbent docents, who are a longstanding and valued part of the Walker community, will remain responsible for all general public and adult tours. School programs, supported by Nordstrom and the Pentair Foundation, and the tour program, supported by the United Health Foundation, continued to be complemented by workshops in the Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab, which offered hands-on art-making designed to advance the learning outcomes of gallery tours.

Public Programs

In adult programming, the Walker piloted an array of audience-cultivating programs for the exhibitions International Pop, Hippie Modernism, and Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting. Pop Remix, a set of cross-disciplinary late-night offerings in August 2015, more than doubled attendance goals. Across the three nights, the Walker received a total attendance of 3,344. Located on the Walker’s beautiful outdoor terraces, Pop Remix combined programming of bands, DJs, film screenings, art-making, and fashion shows. Hippie Modernism opening events included a special screening of films by Jordan Belson and an opening-day panel with noted scholars on the countercultural production of the period. Total attendance for these events exceeded 400. Also in connection with Hippie Modernism, the Walker copresented a panel with Sarah Bellamy, artistic director of Penumbra Theatre; Roger Cummings, director of Juxtaposition Arts; Emory Douglas, former minister for culture of the Black Panthers; Colette Gaiter, associate professor of art at the University of Delaware; and Nisa Mackie, Walker education director. The program sold out Penumbra’s 320-seat theater.

Other discursive programming connected to exhibitions included talks delivered by Andrea Büttner, Morgan Fisher, the Guerilla Girls, Fayette Hauser from the Cockettes, Leslie Hewitt, Lee Kit, Lars Bang Larsen, Chris Larson and Grant Hart, Jack Whitten, and Gunter Zamp Kelp. Thanks to generous sponsorship from Target, the Walker’s Target Free Thursday Nights (TFTN) attracted more than 38,000 attendees to a range of programs related to the exhibition Jack Whitten, including painting workshops, music and dance performances, and storytelling. Also on TFTN, EPP worked with the Moving Image department to present Cinema of Urgency, a monthly program of documentary films and discussions, including a sold-out event featuring Walter Mondale speaking after the documentary Best of Enemies (2015), directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville.

Family Programs

Free First Saturday (FFS), made possible with sponsorship from Ameriprise Financial and program support from Medtronic Foundation, achieved its highest attendance since 2007 with 28,857 participants across 12 events. FFS waives gallery admission and offers families art-making projects, tours, films, and performances with a view to whole family engagement. The program employed a total of 81 artists to design and run art-making programs and perform dances, plays, and music. A feature of this success included one of FFS biggest days in years in January, with attendance of more than 3,500. Currently, the 12 FFS events across the year represent 18 percent total gallery attendance. This year, Family Programs also began researching a pilot program that would take learning from the Arty Pants program and apply it to a collaborative engagement with North Point Health and Wellness Center in North Minneapolis.

Teen Programs

This year Teen Programs served 4,530 participants through teen-focused events, WACTAC, Youth Collective, and other workshops with generous support from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation and the Surdna Foundation; and 101,774 teen visitors through the teens get in free program sponsored by Wells Fargo. A core program of the Walker since 1996, WACTAC—which included more than 50 percent students of color, students from free-lunch receiving schools, and at least three youth that identify as LGBTQIA—relished a robust curriculum that examined the intersection of artistic practice and social issues. This was undergirded through two major projects with the Guerrilla Girls and Emory Douglas. As part of the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, a city-wide project co-organized by Mia, the Walker, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, WACTAC met with 20 other youth groups including Courageous heARTS, the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, Intermedia Arts, Mia’s teen group Art Team, Juxtaposition Arts, Kulture Klub Collaborative, Manufacture, and Little Earth of United Tribe to create a public art project staged in windows along downtown Hennepin Avenue. The project culminated in an event with workshops designed by teens and a panel discussion of local artists. The Walker’s Teen Arts Council also opened an exhibition at CO Exhibitions of work by WACTAC alumni spanning its 20-year history.

In 2016 the Walker, the Whitney Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Houston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles published a national study, with funding from a National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which highlighted the long-term benefits of museum teen program participation. The study found that of the teen program participants surveyed, 100 percent completed high school (national average is 75.5 percent) and 96 percent pursued formal education beyond high school. Additionally, teen program alumni described changed perceptions, a sense of belonging in museums, active visitation and engagement, and a deep valuing of the role of museums in society that resulted from participation in these programs.

Mn Artists

With generous support from the McKnight Foundation, Mn Artists continued to work toward promoting the newly relaunched website, mnartists.org, bolstering online membership and site visits through a combination of responsive local journalism and physical programs offered to the community. Forty-five offline programs, outreach events, and workshops were staged, together reaching more than 12,120 artists and their audiences. Correspondingly, mnartists.org’s user base increased from 2,400 to 3,200, averaging 180 new registrants every month. The site currently has over 44,000 artworks, 380 organizations, some 1,700 opportunities, and 2,700 events. In the past year, the website received more than 1,133,000 page views. The site’s user base is largely Minnesotans (63 percent); however, 21 percent are national and 16 percent of our visitors are international.

In addition to outreach and community cultivation work, the Walker continued a Mn Artists programmatic series of panels and dialogues that featured artists of all disciplines and backgrounds on topics related to their field, practice, and community. As a measure of our efforts for diversity—including range of discipline and geography—26 percent of our guest speakers were artists of color, and 60 percent of our guests were women. Other programmatic collaborations included ArtPrize Pitch Night 2016 and the Independent Film Project’s McKnight Media Artists Panel.

Mn Artists has long been one of the largest employers of arts writers in Minnesota and regularly commissions long-form essays, reviews and features covering the Midwest’s cultural scene. This year, the site published 71 articles from 41 seasoned freelancers, artists, and emerging writers who were all fairly compensated for their contributions. Twenty percent of the editorial contributors were artists of color; 30 percent of published articles featured artists of color. The scope of the site’s critical coverage continued to stretch beyond Minnesota’s borders to include articles, artists, and topics more widely relevant through the Midwest.