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News & Analysis, 6-8: Diaghilev Redux
Walker Art Center, with $77 Million in its Pocket, Gets its Own Theater,
Heralding a New Era of Collaboration in the U.S.
By Robin Hoffman
Copyright 2004 Robin Hoffman
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NEW YORK -- Nearly 100
years ago, Serge Diaghilev brought his Russian Ballet company to
Paris and began instigating collaborations between his choreographers
and the new guard of visual artists and composers, people with names
like Picasso, Stravinsky, and Satie. Diaghilev was the catalyst
for a dialogue among the arts that opened a new chapter in dance
history and made a sensational impact on the public. At the dawn
of the 21st century, the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis is making
a move toward creating a similar cultural impact in the United States,
details of which the center announced May 18 at a New York City
Long a force in the
creation of new work in the performing and visual arts, the Walker
has embarked upon a $92 million expansion which includes a full-sized
theater located on-site and designed to spark collaboration between
artistic disciplines. $67.5 million will go towards construction
and $24.5 million to the center's endowment, to benefit operations.
$77 million has already been raised, the center announced, from
120 individuals, corporations, and foundations. A $10 million gift
from William W. and Nadine M. McGuire specifically directs $8 million
to the construction of the new theater and $2 million to commissions.
While the Walker Arts
Center is widely known as a beautiful, spacious museum for contemporary
art in Minneapolis, it is also a major presenter of dance and other
performing arts. Additionally, the Walker regularly collaborates
on commissions with such organizations as the Brooklyn Academy of
Music and the Lincoln Center Festival. Beneficiaries of commissions
or residencies by the Walker have included Merce Cunningham, Twyla
Tharp, Bill T. Jones, and Rennie Harris.
The Walker currently
has a small amphitheater, which does have a sprung floor, but in
the past most major dance residencies sponsored by the center had
to be housed at other venues in town. That is soon to change, for
the expansion will not only double the size of the entire existing
museum facility, but add a substantial theater with fly loft and
2,800 square feet of stage area. The brand new theater space will
still be intimate to a degree, because the house seats only 385.
The emphasis here is as much on process as product; part of the
plan is to make the space available to artists-in-residence in one
or two week blocks of time so they can fine-tune their productions
on a real stage facility. Appropriately, the new theater is called
the Performing Arts Studio.
rendering of the Walker Art Center's new Performing Arts Studio.
Image courtesy Walker Art Center, and copyright Herzog & de
Meuron, April 2002.
Walker's commitment to the cross-pollination of the visual, performing,
and media arts is evident in the design of the entire expansion.
At the New York press luncheon, performing arts curator Philip Bither
explained that previously, when performing artists have been in
residence at the Walker, they haven't been located at the actual
museum, and the rigors of developing their own pieces usually leave
them no time to come across town and see the art galleries. Having
an in-house theater will provide access and encouragement for the
performing and the visual artists-in-residence to get to know each
other's work. Besides the mere proximity of performing and gallery
spaces, key features in the expansion's architecture are a number
of convenient "social spaces," lounges and common areas with seating
and sweeping views.
The public is certainly
not left out of this equation. The new theater includes balcony
spaces that, with the artists' permission, can be accessible to
visitors during museum hours, offering them a peek at the creative
process. The newly expanded Walker Art Center is scheduled to open
in April of 2005. Please click here to see more of architects
Jaques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's renderings of the new Walker
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