MINNEAPOLIS, MN March 31, 2015—On the occasion of its 75th anniversary as a public art center, the Walker Art Center announces two initiatives—a major campus renovation and the key staff appointments of Fionn Meade as the first Artistic Director and Nisa Mackie as Education and Programs Director—that will foster expanded opportunities for cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement for the next 75 years. A $75 million capital campaign will grow the Walker’s endowment and fund the renovation, executed in tandem with the reconstruction of the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden beginning in the fall of 2015.
“As we mark our 75th year, we are thrilled to commence plans to realize a fully integrated vision for the Walker’s and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s 19-acre campus and to do so just as we launch a variety of distinctive cross-disciplinary programmatic initiatives under new artistic and educational leadership,” said Walker Art Center Executive Director Olga Viso. “The appointment of Fionn and Nisa will provide a powerhouse of programming in concert with our talented curatorial teams across disciplines with whom they will collaborate.”
Campus Renovation + Capital Campaign
The $75 million capital campaign will support an increase in the Walker’s endowment; a new entry pavilion and landscaped four-acre green space across from the Sculpture Garden and surrounding the entire facility; and a complete replacement of the brick façade of the 1971 Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed building (completed in December 2013). To date, the Walker has received 52 campaign contributions totaling $49.8 million from the private sector, including a lead gift of $20 million from Margaret and Angus Wurtele, which is the largest single cash gift in the history of the Walker. The Pohlad family is also contributing $7.5 million from the Pohlad Family Foundation ($5 million) and the Eloise and Carl Pohlad Family Fund, a Signature Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation ($2.5 million).
Additionally, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is reconstructing the 12-acre Sculpture Garden through an $8.5 million allocation from the State of Minnesota and a $1.5 million grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. Together, the $49.8 million private contributions supporting the Walker and the $10 million public contributions supporting the Sculpture Garden project total $59.8 million or 80% of the total goal of $75 million.
“This is a once-a-generation moment to shape one of the key gateways to Minneapolis’s downtown cultural district through the integration of art and landscape,” said Viso. “It builds on the great legacies of past Walker directors Martin Friedman, who created the Garden in partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as the first urban sculpture park of its kind in 1988, and Kathy Halbreich who doubled the footprint of the Walker 10 years ago in a dynamic expansion designed by Herzog & de Meuron.”
The campus renovation will allow the Walker to build on the 40-plus artworks already in the Sculpture Garden and on the Walker campus through new commissions in the Garden, green spaces, entry pavilion, and city streetscapes. Already home to iconic works by Dan Graham, Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Holzer, and Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, the campus will now welcome the next generation of signature works. An announcement about commissions and new artworks is forthcoming.
The new campus design pays homage to the Walker’s architectural histories. Taking a cue from Herzog & de Meuron’s arrangement of scattered interior galleries in the Walker’s 2005 expansion, Petra Blaise of Inside Outside extends this gesture to the outdoors, framing the hillside in a series of groves—some open, some enclosed—a casual twist on Edward Larrabee Barnes’s formal outdoor galleries in the Sculpture Garden. The Walker’s original brick gallery tower, also designed by Barnes, will be returned to the grassy berms that once surrounded it in 1971. A new hill reshapes the topography of the site, giving definition to the current, sloping expanse of green. Joan Soranno and John Cook of HGA have skillfully navigated the design languages of both Barnes and Herzog & de Meuron to create a distinct and powerful third voice in their new entry pavilion that ties the old and the new, the inside and the outside, the Walker and the Sculpture Garden.
The Walker campus plans are being executed in tandem with other major civic initiatives including the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory Reconstruction led by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Both projects are scheduled to break ground in September 2015 with completion of the Walker campus slated for fall of 2016 and the Sculpture Garden to be fully open to the public by spring 2017.
“The partnership between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Walker has been an exceptionally strong one for the past 26 years. This is a unique park within our system and it’s made possible because of our shared vision and commitment to provide such a remarkable space,” said Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “We are thankful for the funding support received from the State of Minnesota and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization for reconstruction, and for the opportunity to work closely with the Walker and the community during the design phase that is taking place now. We are extremely pleased and proud of our ongoing collaborations with the Walker.”
Both the Sculpture Garden and the new designs to the Walker entry and green space take advantage of the latest sustainability technologies including a green roofed entry pavilion to the Walker, a greening of the streetscape, and an ambitious rainwater reclamation project in the Sculpture Garden, funded by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, that works in concert with existing site conditions to utilize water that falls on the site.
The Walker has appointed Fionn Meade as its first Artistic Director—a position that more directly reflect the Walker’s unique role as a multidisciplinary public art center. This new position more comprehensively encompasses the scope of the Walker’s artistic program, both on site and online, and its expanded presentation of a variety of both nontraditional and traditional artistic practices. The role will also foster cross-pollination among and between program areas, encouraging artists to work increasingly across platforms and directly with the public.
“Fionn’s new role as Artistic Director recasts the familiar Chief Curator that one typically sees at most art museums into a position more befitting of the Walker in which there are multiple artistic platforms for both artists and audiences to activate and engage,” said Viso. “Fionn’s diverse experience in both moving image and performance-based practices, as well as traditional museum work, make him uniquely qualified to take on this new role at the Walker.”
The Walker has also 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. She will lead the Walker’s nationally-recognized education and public programs department known for its innovations with artist residencies, public programs, teen education, children and family programs, and experiments in onsite and online engagement and interpretation efforts bringing together a diverse and broad range of artists and audiences, local and international.
“As we launch a variety of distinctive cross-disciplinary programmatic initiatives, Fionn and Nisa will provide a powerhouse of programming together in concert with our talented curatorial teams across disciplines with whom they will collaborate,” said Viso.
The upcoming exhibitions program hearkens to the Walker’s history and legacy, celebrating the depth of the permanent collection with shows like Art at the Center: 75 Years of the Walker Collections (on view through December 31, 2016) and 75 Gifts for 75 Years (on view through July 26, 2015). A robust program of exhibitions is planned including the major historical surveys International Pop (April 11 – August 29, 2015), Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (October 24, 2015 – February 28, 2016), and Merce Cunningham: Common Time (February 10 – May 7, 2017). Contemporary solo exhibitions include artists Liz Deschenes (on view through November 22, 2015), Andrea Büttner (November 21, 2015 – April 24, 2016) and Lee Kit (May 26 – November 13, 2016).
ABOUT THE WALKER ART CENTER AND THE MINNEAPOLIS SCULPTURE GARDEN
One of the most celebrated art museums and multidisciplinary art centers internationally, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is known for presenting today’s most compelling artists from around the world, as well as modern masters. In addition to Walker exhibitions that travel worldwide and its world-renowned collection, the Walker presents a broad array of visual arts, contemporary music, dance, design, and theater, and the best in film and moving image arts. The 12-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is one of the country’s largest urban sculpture parks and first of its kind. At its center is the beloved Twin Cities landmark—the playful fountain-sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The Garden features more than 40 works of art and the Cowles Conservatory. walkerart.org
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 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 that will build on the rich traditions of the Walker as a center for cross-disciplinary programming and community engagement.