The controversial outdoor sculpture “Scaffold” will start being disassembled on Friday, according to a joint statement by Dakota elders, representatives of the Walker Art Center and the artist who created the work. It was part of a mediation agreement, announced today.
The sculpture was to be part of the upcoming Grand Reopening of the Sculpture Garden, but it was quickly engulfed in controversy. The artwork depicts several historic gallows, most prominently the gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862. Neither the artist nor the Walker thought to ask Dakota people for their reaction. When the sculpture started going up, that reaction came fast and strong.
Please join the ceremonial start of the deconstruction, Friday at 2 p.m. at the Sculpture Garden. It is a large sculpture and it will take four days to remove it completely. The wood will be taken to the Fort Snelling area where there will be a ceremonial burning. That date is yet to be announced.
The Fort Snelling area has great significance to the Dakota people, with both positive and negative reasons. Fort Snelling sits at Bdote, the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the area central to the Dakota origin story. It also is the site where Dakota women, children and elders were held during the winter of 1862-63 following the Dakota-U.S. War. Hundreds died there.
The artist, Sam Durant, has turned over all intellectual property rights to the sculpture to the Dakota people, and promised never to replicate it.
This is a first in a series of blogs on today’s news conference. For the full statement that came out of mediation, keep reading.This is verbatim from the Walker Art Center website:
On Wednesday, May 31, representatives including Dakota Spiritual and Traditional Elders, representatives from the four federally recognized Dakota tribes, the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and the artist Sam Durant issued the following statement. This results from the mediation process voluntarily facilitated by Stephanie Hope Smith, a Minnesota registered neutral mediator who specializes in sacred sites.
This is a report regarding the mediation process that has taken place to address the Scaffold structure.
The artist Sam Durant has committed to never create the Dakota gallows again. He commits to transferring the intellectual property rights of this work to the Dakota Oyate (people).
The Walker Art Center agrees that it does not intend to construct this artwork again. Collectively the work will be dismantled during a ceremony beginning Friday, June 2 at 2 pm led by the Dakota Spiritual Leaders and Elders. It takes at least four days to remove the wood. It will be removed by a native construction company, and the wood will be placed in a fire pile near the remaining steel understructure with signage explaining the mutually agreed upon process until the wood is removed. This native construction company is donating their services, and in exchange the Walker has agreed to match that value to support travel for elders to the ceremony.
The wood will be removed and taken to the Fort Snelling area, because of the historical significance of this site to the Dakota Oyate, where they will ceremonially burn the wood. The location logistics will be determined in a meeting with Steve Elliot, executive director of the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Spiritual and Traditional Dakota Elders The date of this ceremony will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.
During the ongoing consultative process, the remaining understructure of steel and concrete will be removed, which should take several days. Because the Garden is still under construction, modification to the perimeter construction fence will be modified to allow space for the ceremony at the site of the artwork. Space will likely be limited, however the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will assure that there is adequate space for attendees to the ceremony on June 2.
The existing signs that are near the artwork will remain until the entire structure and construction fence are removed. The Walker will collect and distribute the signs as requested by their creators. The grand opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will be June 10.
Updates will be provided to the press as this mediation process continues, which will be held at a neutral site.