The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Walker Art Center Creates, Cuts Jobs in Initiative to Rethink Public Engagement

The Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center has created nine new jobs, eliminated five positions, and changed three other roles in a restructuring initiative intended to help the institution better engage with the public, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Under the leadership of Mary Ceruti, who assumed the executive director post at the Walker in January 2019, the museum will be concentrating on “how we plan our programs from the perspective of what matters to people,” Ceruti said. “Not just what are artists thinking and excited about, but how do we connect that to what is important in people's lives?”

To that end, the Walker will establish a new department centered around public engagement, learning, and impact. The department will be led by Nisa Mackie, who was previously director of education and public programs at the Walker. Among those departing will be Paul Schmeizer, longtime editor of the institution’s lauded Walker Reader, and the creator of Artist Op-Eds, which published artists’ takes on various social issues.

The move is partly a response to the museum’s 2017 misstep in prominently exhibiting Sam Durant’s Scaffold, a gallows-like work that drew the ire of Native American leaders for evoking the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota. Though the sculpture was ultimately given a ceremonial burial, the turmoil surrounding its display led to numerous staff departures, including, ultimately, that of director Olga Viso, whom Ceruti replaced.

The Walker has been making consistent attempts to be more socially conscious, in line with the demands of the public. In September 2019, the museum commissioned Angela Two Stars, of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, to create work for its sculpture garden. This past June, it was the only US museum to take direct action following the killing of George Floyd, announcing that it would not contract the Minneapolis Police Department for events until it implemented “meaningful change by demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for excessive use of force, and treating communities of color with respect.