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Letter from the Director
But the times weren't always so sweet. I can't forget how, in the darkest hours of the night, especially those that accompanied the collapse of the stock market and 9/11, many of us worried about meeting our original goal of raising $79 million. Nor did we know if we would convince the City of Minneapolis to collaborate with us on a 670-stall underground parking garage that would make it possible for visitors to dash in to see their favorite painting or stay for dinner and a film. And we certainly never thought we'd pass our increased goal of $92 million with more than 1,400 gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations. But we did achieve all these objectives and, with the help of a devoted board and staff, I look forward to introducing more of our community to the thrill of programs invented just for this new facility.

It's almost possible to forget all the things that led up to the opening. While finishing the construction of the building, we also were completing the strategic planning that would guide our next five years. While preparing new presentations in visual, performing, and media arts, we also were inventing many interpretative methods and materials. New marketing and identity campaigns were designed in-house and launched. Eleven major opening events—including a gala that sold out without a single invitation being sent—went off without a hitch. More than 100 new front-line staff were hired and trained to better serve our visitors. At the same time, we were selecting and installing an entirely new network for telephone, shop, and box office systems. And I'm not done yet.

Juggling the new, we also were running a nearly normal number of programs while the Walker was closed for construction from Valentine's Day 2004 until the opening in April 2005. Thanks to an enormous program and marketing grant from Target Corporation in tandem with the staff's experience working at off-site venues, we were able to launch Walker without Walls and become more visible than ever. A series of billboards announced a wide range of artistic and educational collaborations with myriad organizations—from Franklin Art Works to General Mills, from the Blake School to Sabathani Community Center. A truck carrying Walker staff dispensed ice cream and information throughout Minneapolis neighborhoods, while an artist-designed mini-golf course dubbed Walker in the Rough introduced many new visitors to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

I, of course, was proud when the Walker without Walls identity campaign was singled out by the judges for the American Institute of Graphic Arts' annual regional design review. I was happier still that their comments trumpeted the mission-driven way we work in writing: "The Walker Art Center has brilliantly stated that it's not about the art center itself, but about the relationship of the viewer and the art within the center of Minneapolis."

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