Where do you begin with the Walker -- it is a 8,000 pound whale of a monster on the southwest side of downtown Minneapolis. It is one of the top modern art musuems in the world. It is ours, or is it?
Let start with the new Walker. In 2004, the Walker closed its door and undertook a huge expansion and remodel that cost well over a hundred million and changed the landscape of art here forever. But all is not a bed of roses. With all our hopes for this huge expenditure of money, the Walker seems to have become less accessible and not more. The huge expansion of space really amounts to not much more than a large auditorium and a lot of square footage consisting of hallways twisitng and turning around the McKnight auditorium.
Don't get me wrong, the McKight Auditorium is a nice performance and lecture space. Yet during the entire process, the Walker staff and leadership proved they have little respect for historical perservation and absolved to waste of a cultural institution and history by wanting to destroy the old Guthrie Theater dsigned by local legend Ralph Rapson. They mistakingly think the building is only about the exterior or skin (that got remodeled a decade a so ago) but its not, it is about the stage and one of the unique few in the world that operates in the 3/4 round.
While the trust stage and theater in the round has fallen out of fashion (it was originally in fashion back during the Elizabethian period when Shakespeare lived and wrote plays), the Tyron Guthrie theater space is still a national treasure and it is appauling they are knocking it down. Great things trump temporary trend and fashion and if they had any intellectual vigor and integrity they see their gross error.
These are cultural values you's think our institutional leaders would have some respect for but the game is cut throat when this much money is involved. And, they will level the Guthrie and in order to plant sod -- that's it and nothing more. Astonishing really.
Additionally, the Walker Art Center completely butchered its bookstore. It cut the space in half, eliminated all of the floor stacks the used to hold row upon row of photography books, theoretical texts, history and exhibition catelogues and basically replaced it with greeting cards, gosh knik-knaks, tee-shirts, coasters and official Walker publications.
And now we are facing a future with much epxectation of the Walker Art Center. We love the Walker. It is one of our true national treasures but the new building a staff have much to prove to open itself up to the community. This means opening tiself up to the community of art viewers and appreciators BUT ALSO to its community of artists and creative thinkers. A big grey and white metal and glass building can either be forboding or it can become radiant with activity and new ideas.
Its a razors edge like he new building.