Walker director says 'Scaffold' should be dismantled

Signs of protest against the work
On a construction fence surrounding the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, hangs a sign of protest against the work "Scaffold" by artist Sam Durant on May 27, 2017.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

12:54 p.m. | Updated: 5:30 p.m.

Walker Art Center executive director Olga Viso says she has talked with the artist behind the controversial sculpture "Scaffold" and they're in agreement the sculpture should be dismantled in some manner.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Viso said details of how and when will be determined by Traditional Spiritual Dakota Elders at a meeting scheduled with the Walker and artist Sam Durant on Wednesday. She said it will be done with the support of a mediator selected by the Elders.

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Viso's statement reads in part, "Prompted by the outpouring of community feedback, the artist Sam Durant is open to many outcomes including the removal of the sculpture. He has told me, 'It's just wood and metal - nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.'"

Viso also said, "I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others."

Signs on the fence at the Walker Art Center's sculpture garden as museum announces Scaffold sculpture will be dismantled. pic.twitter.com/eWr6al6h4C

— Tim Nelson (@timnelson_mpr) May 27, 2017

Earlier Saturday, Minnesota's Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community joined calls for the Walker Art Center to take down the controversial sculpture about to debut at the museum's sculpture garden reopening.

Durant's 2012 sculpture "Scaffold" makes reference to "seven historical gallows that were used in U.S. state-sanctioned executions between 1859 and 2006," according to a description by Viso on the museum's website.

One of those seven gallows is specific to Minnesota: the execution of 38 Dakota men during the Civil War in Mankato in 1862.

A spokeswoman for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community said its members are descended from the same band to which the men executed in 1862 belonged.

Some of the opposition to Sam Durant's sculpture titled "Scaffold"
Some of the opposition to Sam Durant's sculpture, "Scaffold," included a menacing poster at the site of the installation and suggestions online that the work in the Walker Sculpture Garden should be burned down.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

In a statement, the SMSC said the Walker should have consulted ahead of time with Minnesota's Dakota communities and other Native American communities in Minnesota before putting up the work.

"The SMSC supports disassembling the scaffold exhibit until the Walker is able to fully engage with a diverse array of Native voices around this tragedy. This conversation is critical to making sure we show the respect due to the men who gave their lives and the Dakota communities they were a part of," reads the statement.

The statement follows protests at the site of the installation, amid an array of sculptures going in north of the Walker Art Center. Demonstrators have been placing signs on a construction fence around the site and speaking out about the sculpture at the museum.

Activist Graci Horne at Walker Art Center
Activist Graci Horne announced the Walker Art Center had agreed to remove a controversial sculpture at a rally of about 100 opponents gathered near the musuem's outdoor display on May 27, 2017.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

In an open letter on Friday, Viso, wrote that she regrets that she did not better anticipate how the work would be received in Minnesota. "I should have engaged leaders in the Dakota and broader Native communities in advance of the work's siting, and I apologize for any pain and disappointment that the sculpture might elicit."