Letter from the Director
Walker without Walls
As we embarked on the construction to effectively double the size of the institution with an addition designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, we looked back in our archives to see what happened in 1969 when the Walker razed its former facility to build the present Edward Larrabee Barnes structure. We discovered the staff had planned nearly two years of off-site activities entitled Museum without Walls, and we soon launched into a yearlong series called Walker without Walls.
       The entire staff committed itself to finding creative ways to strengthen old and develop new community relationships that will surely continue to grow as we return to our new facility. Being free of walls and having spent more than a decade working in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities allowed us to experiment, partner, and expand the Walker's reach. Projects that took us into other cultural institutions mirrored an artist-in-residence project with Christian Marclay that combined a new Walker-commissioned video installation, a series of performances at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis and in local clubs, and a partnership with Franklin Art Works. Films and performance were presented with one of our many partners, including Northrop Auditorium, the Southern Theater, the Cedar Cultural Center, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Playwrights' Center, General Mills, and the Minnesota History Center.
       One project from this past year-in conjunction with artist/musician/provocateur Yoko Ono-perfectly captures our aspiration to champion select artists over the course of their careers while providing them with opportunities to create new works that touch new audiences. The Walker has been committed to Ono for more than four decades-from collecting her work to presenting her performances and films to hosting her major retrospective, Y E S YOKO ONO. This long-term relationship made it easy for us to invite her in autumn 2003 to design a billboard located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. She proposed an idea that, in the context of a post-9/11 world, was both heartbreaking and simple: IMAGINE PEACE. The use of these two words, identical to those printed on a billboard created during the Vietnam War, reminded us of another tormented era in our own history, amplified the possibilities contained in one of John Lennon's most haunting songs, and remained faithful to Ono's ever-optimistic view of the world . But it was not until the billboard was installed that we began to fully appreciate the power of these two words. We heard repeatedly from colleagues how the billboard caused them to pause and reflect, if for only a moment, each time they passed. Perhaps the most satisfying range of responses was included in a Minnesota Public Radio report in which people on the street-some of whom had no idea who Yoko Ono was-reflected on the meaning of the billboard. Unprompted, they began a serious and poignant debate about the Iraq war, finding their diverse thoughts and emotions about the present reflected in Ono's new "canvas."
       On the lighter side, the extraordinarily successful Walker in the Rough-a miniature golf course designed by local artists and architects-was installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and drew more than 25,000 putters, many of whom waited an average of two hours to play. Our Free First Saturdays family program welcomed additional people to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, presenting hands-on family activities, dance, music, and puppetry; the events were such a success that we may continue to present our summer Free First Saturdays' activities in the Garden even after the expanded facility reopens. The opening night of our annual Music & Movies series in Loring Park attracted 3,000 neighbors, film buffs, and music lovers looking for an enjoyable evening under the stars. And this summer, thanks to Target Corporation, which provided generous support for the entire Walker without Walls program, we drove an ice cream truck from Edina to Uptown to the north side, distributing free ice cream along with information on Walker without Walls programs. Sometimes, especially during the summer, a bit of ice cream communicates the fact that the Walker is an open and inviting art center better than anything else.
       It's going to be hard to match the pleasure our audiences derived from these projects, but the Education and Community Programs team, under the guidance of director Sarah Schultz, is immersed in creating information and programs that will give context to the work we show and in developing comfortable opportunities for civic engagement across disciplines and neighborhoods. Since educational programs reach everyone from kids in daycare centers to people attending elderhostel programs, from the novice to the lifelong learner, a lot of different learning styles and interests need to be accommodated. Consequently, staff members Reggie Prim and Sarah Peters interviewed 32 community representatives, from the mayor to artists to businesspeople, in order to develop a civic engagement map that will guide the development of public programs to animate the new building. One project being hatched includes an arcade space between two galleries that will open with an installation by two Minnesota artists whose work is made out of zeros and ones. Their installation features a life-size computer animation of a talkative dolphin with an artificial intelligence capacity. Using a wireless keyboard, visitors may pose questions to the creature, whose responses range from the didactic to the philosophical to the uncanny. (I'm looking forward to asking the oracle about the meaning of Matthew Barney's latest film.) The other major invention is Dialog, a one-of-a-kind interactive media table that uses an innovative gestural interface to facilitate learning about our collection. Commissioned through an international design competition, the project is a collaboration among a Bell Lab scientist, a group of artists, and the New Media, Design, and Education departments.
       Our experiences with Walker without Walls have reinvigorated our sense that contemporary practice can be accessible, greatly entertaining, and exceptionally meaningful to those willing to entertain a new idea. While I've mentioned a few staff members in this report, everyone listed in the back of this book deserves special mention. It's an extraordinary staff: inventive, devoted, optimistic, and determined to share their pleasure with others. We especially want to thank our many members, donors, and ongoing supporters who have remained active and followed us throughout the Twin Cities during this exceptionally dynamic period in our history.



Photography Credit(s)
Gene Pittman