Ford Foundation President Darren Walker (photo courtesy Ford Foundation)

” … a society can’t be a more just society, a more fair society, without it being a more empathetic society, and the arts help build empathy. And understanding and engagement with the arts builds in us an ability, a capacity, for introspection, for putting ourselves in the shoes of other people, an ability to imagine what it must be like to be different than who we are, whether we are a white man or a black man or a white woman … ”

—Darren Walker

This past summer, I met Ford Foundation President Darren Walker in Times Square, where the major philanthropic organization has temporarily relocated its offices while they renovate their iconic building on East 43rd Street in Manhattan.

Darren Walker looking at art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) (photo courtesy Ford Foundation)

Our conversation took place soon after the organization announced plans to open an office in Detroit, a city it had left in 1953. We spoke about the public’s interest in scrutinizing institutional authority, Walker’s own love of art, and the renovations at the Foundation’s building, and also discussed Agnes Gund’s new Art for Justice fund, the role of the arts for marginalized communities, and the importance of public education.

Walker is clearly a lover of the arts and the conversation conveys some of his passion easily (you may be surprised to hear about the artists that inspired him most).

This season we are also partnering with Warp Records, who will provide music for each episode. The music featured on this episode was Mark Pritchard’s “Give it Your Choir.” You can hear more from his latest release “Under the Sun” at and find more great music from Warp Records at

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Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.