It was a fast-paced and energetic year at the Walker Art Center! I take great pride in reviewing an extraordinary 12 months of contemporary arts programming enhanced by outstanding local, national, and international support.

The 10th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden launched the year in style with a lively celebration called A Cherry Jubilee. This community-wide event drew some 10,000 people who enjoyed a sunny September day of family art workshops and performances by artists, including the world-renowned Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The day began with the unveiling of a new work of art, a mobile art lab created by Atelier Van Lieshout of the Netherlands with generous funding from Medtronic and additional support from the Mondriaan Foundation. This spectacular art lab will travel throughout the Twin Cities, bringing Walker programs to many neighborhoods. We are most grateful to Dayton’s for underwriting the day’s activities as well as the publication of a commemorative book featuring a history of the Garden and descriptions of all the sculptures. Additional support was provided by the Star Tribune, with project assistance by General Mills that included a special Cheerios box, and promotional support from MPLS.ST.PAUL Magazine. We also thank Department 56 in honor of its founder, Ed Baznet, for ongoing Garden commissions.

This year the Visual Arts Department introduced the community to an incredible array of exhibitions organized both at the Walker and by sister institutions. Unfinished History, which opened in October, featured 23 international artists who examined the ambiguities of this millennial moment. The response we received from the global funding community for this show was heartening. Special thanks go to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mondriaan Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the International Artists’ Studio Program in Sweden (IASPIS), the Finnish Fund for Art Exchange in Helsinki, and Bahram Akradi. Catalogue support was provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. This exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago after its premiere in Minneapolis.

An exploration of women artists across the century began in the fall with La Futurista: Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, 1917–1944. Benedetta was one of the few women associated with the male-dominated Futurist movement as well as the wife of its founder, Filippo Marinetti. The exhibition was made possible by 3M and Michael and Sheila Bonsignore, with furnishings provided by Room & Board, which also generously helped us equip the classroom in Atelier van Lieshout’s mobile art lab. A cool winter weekend welcomed Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958–1968 to the Walker. This exhibition explored the body of work by a daring postwar Japanese performance-visual artist who enjoyed a prolific career in 1960s New York City. We were delighted that the 69-year-old artist was able to join us for the opening-weekend festivities. The exhibition’s Minneapolis presentation was made possible by Yoko Ono Lennon, the E. Rhodes & Leona Carpenter Foundation, and Aaron and Carol Mack.

Scenarios: Recent Work by Lorna Simpson continued the Walker’s commitment to this African-American artist. Simpson, whose work is represented in the permanent collection, has been actively involved in the museum’s artist-in-residence program. In fact, she created the film and photographs upon which the exhibition was based during a prior, extended visit to the Twin Cities, during which she worked with local actors and teens. We are grateful to the Arthur and Alice Kramer Foundation for its contribution to the exhibition.

In February the museum opened Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, the first comprehensive examination of more than 100 drawings within the larger context of this American artist’s sculptural work. The exhibition, which will travel internationally, was generously funded by Penny and Mike Winton. A special print that was produced by the artist and sold to collectors also helped fund the exhibition. The Jerome Foundation continued its commitment to the Dialogues series, in which work by artists from New York and Minneapolis is paired to create unique gallery installations. This spring, Minneapolis-based photographer Wing Young Huie collaborated with New York writer Paul Beatty in an exhibition documenting the urban environment, including our own Lake Street.

The season ended with Edward Ruscha: Editions 1959–1999, a luxurious look at this Los Angeles–based artist’s printmaking career. Many thanks to the exhibition’s donors: Lannan Foundation, Dayton’s Frango® Fund, the Eli Broad Family Foundation, Goldman, Sachs & Co., and the Douglas R. Cramer Foundation. The beautiful catalogue raisonné was made possible with a gift from the Richard Florsheim Art Fund. Throughout the year, funding for the current installation of the Walker’s permanent collection continued with underwriting for The Andersen Window Gallery provided by Andersen Corporation.

In September 1998, the Walker’s Performing Arts Department was the recipient of an extraordinary $1.5 million gift from the New York–based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This award--the museum’s largest single program grant for performing arts--will support jazz and dance programming and establish an endowment to commission and present contemporary work. The Foundation calls the Walker ”one of the nation’s most important contemporary arts institutions. . . . For years the Walker has been an uncompromising advocate for artists and one of the most important centers for the development and presentation of new work with a strong history in contemporary jazz and dance.” The Performing Arts Department, long recognized as having one of the most respected programs of its kind in the country, was only the fifth organization nationally to receive a Duke grant and the first non–East Coast recipient. Performing Arts has also received important and ongoing funding from The McKnight Foundation; the Dayton Hudson Foundation on behalf of Dayton’s, Mervyn’s California, and Target Stores; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts.

A generous $250,000 gift from Nancy and Larry Bentson to the Walker’s Film/Video Department created The Bentson Family Fund for the Acquisition, Conservation, and Presentation of Film. Over the next five years, this fund will support a significant expansion of the Ruben Film Study Collection and public programs. It was Nancy’s parents, Edmond and Evelyn Ruben, who generously supported the Walker in the early 1970s by inaugurating the Ruben Film Study Collection, which now numbers several hundred titles screened periodically during the popular Ruben Cinematheque series. In addition to supporting the Walker’s film program, the Rubens also made an extraordinary gift of their art collection, including works by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky.

The Film/Video Department continued its popular Regis Dialogues program with film screenings and appearances by Terry Gilliam paired with noted film critic Stuart Klawans, Stan Brakhage with Walker Film/Video Curator Bruce Jenkins, and Werner Herzog with Roger Ebert. The Regis Foundation’s increased and generous ongoing support is deeply appreciated. Additionally, Film/Video received financial assistance from the Minnesota Women’s Foundation for the Women in the Director’s Chair series; John and Marcia Stout for the Midwest Film and Video Showcase; and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a film-based artist-in-residence program with Cheryl Dunye.

It was another groundbreaking year for the museum’s New Media Initiatives Department. All of us were proud when the Walker Art Center’s Web site was voted Best Overall Site at the third annual international Museums and the Web Conference, besting museums from 26 countries. In addition, we were thrilled when ArtsConnectEd, the collaborative arts-education site by the Walker and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, won Best Educational Use Site. Special thanks to the funders who invested in this innovative educational initiative: the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning; MCI WorldCom; and the Blandin Foundation. New Media also received a commissioning grant from The Jerome Foundation for four online projects for new-media artists as well as related critical essays and technical support.

The Education and Community Programs Department continued its work with support from both local and national donors. Free First Saturday, the museum’s popular family program, was pleased to renew a generous operating contribution from Coldwell Banker Burnet and funding for related educational programs from Target Stores, Medtronic, Dayton’s, and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation. Since it was founded, Free First Saturday has successfully engaged many audiences, including low-income families. Furthermore, 18% of audience members identified themselves as people of color in a recent survey. The program has been a valuable point of entry for many people new to both the Walker and to museums in general.

The vital School and Tour Programs, which annually reaches more than 50,000 schoolchildren and their teachers, received critical funding from Target’s Take Charge of Education fund and The Cargill Foundation. Additional very generous support for education programs was provided by Northern States Power Company and Dick and Claudia Swager. Claudia’s commitment as a patron and tour guide suggests the extraordinary role volunteers play in this organization. Programs designed specifically for adult audiences received generous ongoing funding from Aaron and Carol Mack through the Mack Lecture Series.

The Walker was pleased to announce that it has been awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to fund a new initiative entitled Artists and Communities at the Crossroads. This vital support launches a series of artist residencies and related educational programs to engage more deeply the increasingly diverse and international audiences living within the neighborhoods surrounding the Walker.

While the Pew grant allows the Walker to focus within its immediate neighborhood, our mission to be a truly international institution received an important three-year, $1 million commitment from The Bush Foundation. The Bush Global Initiative allows the Walker to create new international artistic and educational programming. Funds will support a Global Advisory Committee of eight individuals representing a breadth of curatorial expertise from China, Iran, Japan, South Africa, South America, and Turkey. This illustrious group will travel to the Walker twice a year to meet with the museum’s staff and community partners and to attend, critique, and help shape programs. In turn, Walker curators will visit their international colleagues annually. In the final year of the grant, the Initiative will culminate with a three-month-long interdisciplinary, international arts festival.

We were delighted to continue the second year of funding for the very popular Walker After Hours. This event, held on the second Friday of each month, draws both current and new audiences to the museum for an evening of gallery tours, performances, film programs, and educational activities. Topped off by the Martini of the Month, Walker After Hours has become a hot ticket on the local club scene. Special thanks to U.S. Bank for its generous underwriting of Walker After Hours. We are also grateful to Dayton’s, our promotional sponsor, and Musicland, our entertainment sponsor. Working together, these partners have guaranteed our success.

I am thrilled to announce that the Walker’s Annual Fund once again met and exceeded its goals. All of us at the museum are most grateful to the donors who commit their financial resources to our work. I would especially like to thank this year’s major government, corporate, and foundation donors: the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dayton Hudson Foundation on behalf of Dayton’s, Mervyn’s California, and Target Stores, The McKnight Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, Coldwell Banker Burnet, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Express Minnesota Philanthropic Program, the Honeywell Foundation, The Cargill Foundation, The Regis Foundation, The St. Paul Companies., Inc., and U.S. Bank.

In closing I would like to acknowledge the conclusion of one of the museum’s most successful programs, “New Definitions/New Audiences.” Established five years ago with a $1.25 million grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, this unique initiative was part of a national program to build new audiences for museums. At the Walker, we sought to engage visitors in a reexamination of 20th-century art through two innovative permanent collection exhibitions and related programs. Important links to contemporary art were made for our patrons through an extensive artist-in-residence program with events and activities held both at the museum and off-site. Lila Wallace funding also underwrote 60 interactive family gallery guides called Artwork of the Month as well as monthly tours and lecture series. “New Definitions/New Audiences” helped launch the museum’s nationally recognized Teen Programs, which now receives ongoing support from the Surdna Foundation. Another Wallace-funded program strand, Free First Saturday, reached nearly 200,000 people during the five-year grant period. Without question, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund’s support also enabled the Walker to dramatically increase participation of previously underserved constituencies.

This extraordinary investment touched the lives of literally thousands of Walker visitors. But, perhaps most importantly, it provided Walker staff time and funding to test new ideas and develop new models for interaction and engagement with the public. Finally, the Fund’s far-sighted commitment to evaluate the program allowed the Walker to test its success and share new ideas with other museums across the country. Nationally, museums owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and its forward-thinking staff and Board for their commitment to changing museum practice and reaching new audiences. Clearly, they have made a profound difference in the field.

As my first year as Board President draws to a close, I am humbled by the incredible generosity of all of our donors. The Walker truly is a remarkable institution, but its amazing work would not be possible without great friends like you. Whether you live next door or across the globe, your devotion makes it all possible.

Thank you.

Steve Watson, President