The Walker, along with the entire cultural community in Minnesota, lost a great friend and an unparalleled champion with the passing of John Cowles, Jr. last Saturday. While I admired his steadfast commitment to the arts, John was also one of the most elegant and inspiring individuals I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was drawn to his probing and inquisitive mind, his generous spirit and intellect, and learned much from his experience and savvy as a passionate and vital community leader. He was never afraid to take risks, and encouraged risk-taking and freethinking in others—a characteristic embodied by his performance in Bill T. Jones’ Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Promised Land in 1990.
John’s adventurous spirit carried over to his role as a longtime Walker Trustee, who with his wife, Sage, made the Cowles Conservatory possible in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. They were also longtime members of the Patrons’ Circle and founding members of the Walker Producers’ Council, which supports our performing arts program. Their gifts to the Walker included support for the 1998 Art Performs Life exhibition, the 2005 expansion to our building, and numerous performances, including the once-in-a-lifetime production of Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s monumental Ocean in 2008.
As a civic leader whose support for the Walker extends back to the early 1970s, John offered counsel and perspective that were of enormous value to me. We will miss him deeply at the Walker, where he and Sage have left many indelible marks that will inspire us for decades. We extend heartfelt condolences to Sage, their children, Jay, Fuller, Tessa, and Jane; his brother Russell and sister Sarah; and extended family and friends.