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Letter from the Director
As glorious as the new architecture is, its true beauty lies in the ways it gives shape to our mission and future aspirations—in the way it welcomes both artists and audiences. We now can work smarter and across disciplines, we can offer more of our resources to the community, and we can care for the collection as well as artworks loaned for exhibitions in a much more professional manner. The back of the house is as functional as the front of the house is beautiful.

Of course, in typical Walker fashion, we weren't inventing a future so much as fully realizing our legacy, first described by Walker director Daniel S. Defenbacher in 1944: "An Art Center is a 'town meeting' in a field of human endeavor. . . . By definition, it is a meeting place for all the arts. It provides space in which the public can both participate and be a spectator." Our vision for the facility, as stated in our initial press release, was to create "a town square that is a destination in itself, where distinct zones of quiet and conviviality introduce the visitor to a unique spectrum of programs and to the ideas animating them. . . . One of the first 'smart' cultural facilities, giving visitors the technological tools to create their own individualized learning experiences . . . the Walker will become a pleasurable destination—real and virtual." Even in the virtual realm, our early language is becoming a reality: in fiscal year 2004-2005, the Walker's Web sites, including the immensely robust that features some 4,000 artists from around the state, attracted more than 4.2 million visitors, nearly double the number in 2004. There are hundreds of hours of information and interactive-learning opportunities on these sites that serve friends from far away as well as Minnesota teachers.

So, after all this success, where do we go next? It's probably wise to say that no one on the board or staff believes that the successful opening of the new facility is an end point. Rather, it's a fabulous beginning that provides us, finally, with a welcoming stage on which to engage our expanding audiences more deeply. We're off to a good start locally and I'm confidant we'll continue to be visible nationally and internationally, with our artistic achievements being acknowledged broadly. For example, three Walker-organized exhibitions—Chuck Close: Self-Portraits 1967-2005; House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective; and Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005—were highlighted in a seasonal overview by the New York Times. Another article, mourning the loss of innovative dance presenters on either coast, singled out the Walker as an oasis in the field. Acclaimed Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Oscar-winning film director Alexander Payne, best known for the 2004 feature Sideways, were here for Regis Dialogues. The staff particularly relishes its role as generator of new programs and is proud to export so much culture around the globe. During this fiscal year alone, 5 Walker-organized exhibitions were seen in 13 museums in 7 countries. Hundreds of thousands of art lovers in cities ranging from Dublin to Mexico City were able to view exhibitions such as How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age; Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life; and Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns since 1983.

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