Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is this really vital
catalytic space in Minneapolis that brings artists and audiences together. Our visitors
can come not only and see some of the most dynamic and compelling art that’s being produced
today but can actually meet and hear from the individuals who make these art works and
are responding to our world. I’m not photographing people retreating, I’m
photographing the desire to retreat. It’s like how do you picture desire. The artists themselves are really the brilliant
innovators and I feel that they are looking at technology, they’re looking at the way
people live their lives, they’re looking at conflict, they’re looking at all the questions
that matter to our culture at large and they’re reinterpreting these pressing questions through
their creative work. Jerusalem is, of course, the sacred city so
how do you expand the sacredness: architecturally. Art provides bridges of conversation and understanding
and so we see our self as a space that convenes and brings people together to talk about ideas,
to talk about issues in our world. What I’m trying to do is queer the space.
Get you guys outside of your normative rules. When artists come to The Walker they expect
to take a risk. They expect the audience to come along for the experience. Allow my viewer to see the grey areas and
me which are the most politically honest areas I can give you. And artists today are often thinking in multiple
formats so the Walker’s been a place that’s lived that kind of production and presentation
for over fifty years. The thing itself, is its got its own energy.
It’s its own organism. And its its its had its own way of developing and finding itself.
Right, it finds its voice and with that voice it tells you what it needs. There’s been this long history and legacy
of The Walker and NEA’s involvement. The first grant was for the Center Opera Company which
ultimately became the Minnesota Opera that was incubated here at The Walker, supported
conservation projects, jazz series, it helped with acquiring works for the collection and
also when the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was launched in 1988. Many of the new commissions
were supported with the NEA. We really look to not only the finest artists
but the most innovative, quizzical, curious artists that we can find out there and want
to support them to take their art forms in new directions. When Ralph Lemon came to The Walker and said
I want to do a new work, he said I don’t want to do it on stage I want to do it in a gallery.
So began a series of questions that became Scaffold Room. It was a charged, fascinating piece of theatrical
expression, combined with installation, and we did a month long residency with Ralph to
develop this work. We did a steam punk musical called Futurity and we helped co-commission
it. We worked with a couple of partners around the country. It had its first performances
here after a residency and now it’s running successfully at an off Broadway theater in
New York. A company called Elevator Repair Service was supported by the NEA to make a
brand new work. It’s sort of absurdist and surreal piece of large scale experimental
theater. I’d say also the NEA has helped us support
not just bringing new works and supporting the production of new works but also supporting
some of the great masters of our time and a project that we are really proud of that
we collaborated with the NEA was presenting Merce Cunningham’s Ocean, which is really
one of Merce’s masterworks and Merce Cunningham one of the great choreographers of our time
and we were able to do a fantastic multi-day festival of realizing Ocean in a rock quarry
in northern Minnesota that was a real highlight of Merces career. The Walker Art Center is a multi-disciplinary
art center that has been active for 75 years, originally supported through the Works Progress
Administration and the Federal Art Project. That it began with the name of our founder
T.B. Walker who opened his home to the citizens of Minneapolis and visitors to our community
back in the 1870s. It was the first free public art gallery west of the Mississippi. 2015
is the 75th anniversary year. We have an exhibition that’s on view right now called Art at the
Center, 75 years of Walker Collections, that really start with the first acquisition of
Franz Marc’s Blue Horses that launch the arts center it’s more contemporary focused and
artist center focused. In the late 80s and early 90s when culture
wars were at play and the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition was causing controversy around
whether the NEA should continue to exist, whether visual artists should continue to
be supported. The Walker took a strong stand speaking on behalf of the support of artists
and of institutions and our director then Martin Friedman testified before congress
and took a very active role on a national level to really make a case for the importance
of supporting art and bringing culture forward in all its expressions and supporting the
freedom of expression and the freedom of artistic practice. The spirit of innovation is a real value.
It’s why often so many American artists end up on international festivals and are viewed
as influential forces. If we didn’t have the kind of support we have from the NEA, the
work would not be as strong, the connections with audiences and community members would,
would be weaker. It’s a real imprimatur for The Walker to know that the NEA believes in
our work. We are proud of the fact that the artists that we’ve supported, and we’ve have
had over 260 commissions, have gone on often to become some of the world class, most acclaimed
American artists working.


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