Olga Viso to Step Down as Executive Director of Walker Art Center

Olga Viso  Walker Art Center

The leader of a Minneapolis art museum where a gallows sculpture sparked protests says she is resigning.

"I think Olga's legacy will be tied to the success of the Sculpture Garden and the Walker campus", Fionn Meade, the Walker's former senior curator and artistic director, said in an interview.

The board also credits Viso for serving as a cultural leader nationally and locally on the boards of the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. That work was completed earlier this year. Over 5,000 artworks entered the Walker Art Center's collection in her time there, and the museum's endowment grew. Other important exhibitions that took place during her tenure included "Yves Klein" in 2010, "International Pop" in 2015 and "Hippie Modernism" in 2015-16. "Adios Utopia", now on display at the museum, features art from Cuba.

Other accomplishments of the Viso years include a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation; a 75th anniversary initiative that added almost 250 new art works from more than 120 donors to the Walker's collections; and greater representation at the Walker of experimental, emerging, local and underrepresented artists including more women and people of color. Sam Durant's sculpture Scaffold, a playground-like piece representing the largest mass execution (38 Dakota men) in USA history, drew protests from the community.

Ms. Viso faced difficulties within the museum as well, as two dozen staff members had departed within the a year ago, out of a staff of just under 120.

Reopening festivities for the garden were overshadowed by the controversy surrounding artist Sam Durant's "Scaffold", a sculpture based on the designs of historic gallows, including one used to execute 38 Dakota men following the 1862 U.S. -Dakota War in southern Minnesota.

The Walker ordered the sculpture dismantled.

"We are grateful for Olga's leadership and celebrate her significant contributions to the Walker Art Center during the past 10 years", said Monica Nassif, Board President in a written release.

"It has been a privilege to lead this venerable contemporary arts institution the last 10 years and to support the work of some of the most compelling and adventurous global artists working today across disciplinary boundaries", Viso said in a press release.

The board will form a search committee to hire a new executive director.

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