The Walker Art Center will no longer contract the services of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) for special events, the museum announced in a statement this afternoon. In one of the most robust acts of support for the ongoing protests against anti-Black police brutality seen by an art museum so far, the Walker said it would stop working with the MPD until it “implements meaningful change.”
Those measures of change would include “demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for the use of excessive force, and treating communities of color with dignity and respect,” says the statement. “Enough is enough. George Floyd should still be alive. Black lives matter.”
A previous post by the museum on Friday, May 29, expressed grief for the death of Floyd, a Black man choked by a white ex-police officer in Minneapolis. His murder has been met with calls for accountability and action, spurring nationwide demonstrations.
“What financial resources are you offering to Black artists in the community and other organizations/groups affected?” one commenter asked the museum. “How are you pushing for justice?”
Another invoked artist Sam Durant’s “Scaffold” (2012), a sculpture that was to be installed in the Walker’s sculpture garden in 2017. The piece caused controversy for its references to the US Army’s mass execution of 38 Native men in Minnesota at the end of the US-Dakota War of 1862. Both its aestheticizing of the gallows and its planned installation on a museum that sits on land once used by the Dakota people were highly condemned, leading to the piece’s burial by members of the Dakota nation.
But the Walker’s promise to divest from the MPD — the agency that formerly employed Derek Chauvin, the officer responsible for Floyd’s death — has been viewed by many as an important first step toward improving its track record in the fight for social justice.
The museum’s statement comes amid a wave of criticism that institutions nationwide are not doing enough to support Black communities and in some cases even enabling the work of police and oppressors. This weekend, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City came under scrutiny for allowing patrol units to station for one day during nearby protests, later asking police to leave its premises. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was accused of silencing a Black former employee by erasing and disabling comments on an Instagram post featuring a work by artist Glenn Ligon.
Others — the Whitney and the Guggenheim among them — were blasted for publishing black squares as part of the #BlackOutTuesday initiative. The blank posts, ostensibly meant as an expression of solidarity, ultimately clogged feeds with noise and made it more difficult to access critical information and protest resources.
The Walker has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment. In response to one Instagram commenter’s demand that the Walker cut “all ties” with MPD, the account’s administrator responded, “The Walker Art Center has no ongoing or existing contracts with the MPD but has in the past contracted officers to work large special events.”