Walker Art Center's sculpture garden to reopen later, following 'Scaffold' controversy

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

The Walker Art Center said Monday it is delaying the reopening of its famed sculpture garden, after controversy this past weekend over one of the new works.

"Scaffold" is a sculpture by California artist Sam Durant that is based in part on notable executions in U.S. history. It refers to the hanging of 38 Dakota Indian men in Mankato in 1862.

Protests Friday and Saturday prompted the Walker to rethink the work. It's one of 18 new sculptures following a two-year, $33 million makeover. The sculpture garden is now scheduled to reopen June 10, a week later than originally projected.

The Walker, the artist, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Dakota elders are scheduled to meet Wednesday in a private meeting to talk about what to do next.

Walker Art Center executive director Olga Viso and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board superintendent Jayne Miller issued a statement saying the extra time is needed to allow time for mediation.

"Dakota Elders leading the mediation process have respectfully asked that others who feel allied in this endeavor, but who are not Dakota, or whom may represent other communities across the state and region, to please be patient and respect the process that is currently underway. There is concern from all parties involved in the mediation process that preemptive actions in advance of these discussions would be counterproductive," according to an emailed statement Monday. The Walker declined further interviews.

Before the meeting with the Walker and Park Board, Dakota elders will hold a meeting Tuesday night to include more of the Dakota community in the discussion. That discussion, at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, is "only the first of many meetings to help create a process of healing and to help educate through Dakota truth-telling of our own history," according to a statement from Dakota elders that the Walker and Park Board included in the Monday email.

The Walker said over the weekend the artist and the museum are open to dismantling and removing the work. But artist Sam Durant did not specifically address that in a statement posted to the Walker's web site Monday afternoon. Durant said he made a "grave miscalculation" in how the work would be received and apologized for not consulting with the Dakota community.

"My work was created with the idea of creating a zone of discomfort for whites; your protests have now created a zone of discomfort for me," the letter said. "In my attempt to raise awareness I have learned something profound, and I thank you for that. Can this be a learning experience for all of us, the Walker, other institutions and artists and larger society?"

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