As we close out a difficult year and begin another, we want to share the progress we’ve been making since the challenging and emotionally charged events of last summer. First and foremost, we, members of the Walker’s interim leadership team, wish to underscore that despite the recent leadership transition at the Walker, the desire for positive change, both among its board and its staff, has not wavered. Second, we want to share that we’ve been deeply and quietly engaged in both the institutional soul-searching and the important work necessary to bring forth that change.
In June 2017, after Sam Durant’s controversial sculpture Scaffold was removed from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the artist transferred intellectual property rights to the Dakota, we started to address the agreements outlined in the mediation between our leadership team and Dakota Elders. One of the specific commitments made was to examine our institutional structures and internal policies in order to make systemic changes.
Over the last few months, we have spent significant time looking into institutional, managerial, and cultural issues, especially as they related to events over the summer. We learned that our internal checks and balances—from the purchase of Scaffold to its placement in the Garden—were inadequate, causing us to not sufficiently anticipate community reaction until days before the reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Using these recent learnings as our guide, we are currently working on building:
- A more effective acquisitions process that includes an updated Acquisition Committee charter and new format for Board meetings.
- Clearer accountability for artwork interpretation among Walker departments.
- New protocol for placing artwork in public spaces such as the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
- A Native advisory group for an upcoming commissioned work by a Native artist for the Walker’s collection.
Because we are a contemporary art center, we know that some of the artwork we present may elicit strong feelings and opinions. As we serve both artists and audiences, we are committed to proceed with greater sensitivity around context, intentions, interpretation, and outreach. With that sentiment, we look forward to the possibilities that the new year brings, as we work to build and strengthen relationships with the communities we serve.
Walker Art Center Interim Executive Office:
Monica Nassif, Board President
Christopher Stevens, Chief Advancement Officer
Siri Engberg, Senior Curator and Director of Exhibitions Management
Mary Polta, Chief Financial Officer
Rishi Donat, Director of Human Resources