Since arriving at the Walker in late 2018, Executive Director Mary Ceruti has committed to serving artists from Minnesota, outlining this in her first months as an institutional priority in her interim strategic plan. “I’m interested in the very unique place the Walker sits within the larger arts ecosystem in Minnesota,” Ceruti notes, “In addition to our work with artists nationally and internationally, I see our involvement in and support of the Minnesota artist community as absolutely central to our vitality as an institution, and key to the way we engage with and serve our many audiences.”
Since her arrival, Ceruti and her curatorial team have acquired a significant number of works by Minnesota artists. Thirty-nine works by artists currently or formerly based in Minnesota have entered the collection since her arrival. These works are by a diverse and multigenerational range of practitioners, including Aiken, Siah Armajani, Frank Big Bear, Julie Buffalohead, James Byrne, Andrea Carlson, Rosemary Soyini Vinelle Guyton, Jay Heikes, Pao Hua Her, Seitu Jones, Caroline Kent, Stuart Klipper, Chris Larson, Teo Nguyen, Stuart Neilson, Rowan Pope, Aaron Spangler, Dyani White Hawk, and Tetsuya Yamada.
The works acquired encompass a broad range of media, including paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and multimedia installations. These include a grouping of new photographs by Pao Houa Her (US, b. Laos, 1982) that show the interplay between the cultures and landscapes of St. Paul and Laos; Everyday City (2006), a major sculptural installation by Tetsuya Yamada (US, b. Japan, 1968) made from 800 ceramic vessels; Takes Care of Them (Wówahokuŋkiya | Lead, Wókaǧe | Create, Nakíčižiŋ | Protect and Wačháŋtognaka | Nurture; 2019), a suite of recent prints by Dyani White Hawk (Sičangu Lakota, b. 1976) made at Minneapolis-based Highpoint Center for Printmaking and based on ceremonial Lakota dresses; Land Speed Record (2016), a room-scaled installation by Chris Larson (US, b. 1966) inspired by the history of storied Minneapolis music venue First Avenue; and several important early works by Siah Armajani (US, b. Iran, 1939–2020), who passed away this year, and whose retrospective Siah Armajani: Follow This Line was co-organized and presented by the Walker in 2018.
Other new works are commissions for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Shadows at the Crossroads, a collaboration between Ta-coumba T. Aiken, Rosemary Soyini Vinelle Guyton, and Seitu Jones, features silhouettes of important figures from Minnesota history and was installed in June 2019. Okciyapi (Help Each Other), an upcoming commission by Twin Cities–based artist Angela Two Stars (Dakota, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, b. 1982), is scheduled to be installed in 2021.
The Walker has collected and exhibited Minnesota artists since its beginnings, and Ceruti considers this an important thread in the Walker’s ongoing acquisitions and exhibitions programs. The Walker’s current installation of its permanent collection, for example, includes nine works by Minnesota artists. Ceruti, along with Chief Curator and Director of Cultural Affairs Henriette Huldisch, has articulated the Walker’s engagement with Minnesota-based artists as a renewed priority. “Connecting the artists of Minnesota with peers from around the globe and establishing international context for these artists is central to our mission,” Ceruti notes.