Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center bought the artwork Scaffold to include in its newly expanded Sculpture Garden, scheduled to reopen in June 2017. The two-story tall sculpture included seven different historic gallows; it is supposed to be a commentary on capital punishment. However, the sculpture’s most prominent feature was the gallows used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato in the wake of the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War — the largest mass hanging in U.S. history. Minnesota is Dakota homeland. Neither the artist nor the Walker thought to ask Dakota people for their reaction.

“Scaffold” sculpture will be removed from the Walker Sculpture Garden.

As it was being erected, Scaffold was quickly engulfed in controversy as Dakota people and their allies protested the artwork. The Walker and the artist Sam Durant have both issued public apologies for not being aware of how this would affect the Dakota community. The Walker agreed to remove the sculpture following mediated talks with Dakota elders. It is will start discussions with Dakota artists about a piece of artwork either to replace Scaffold or to exhibit elsewhere on the Center’s campus. It will look for institutional changes so this kind of decision doesn’t happen again.

This problem is not unique to the Walker. Many institutions lack diverse voices in leadership that could help flag problems.

Here are previous blogs and links to other media coverage to help those interested in more background and details:

Healing Minnesota Stories Blogs

June 21, 2017: Reflections on “Scaffold”: Artistic Freedom, the Son of Sam, and Repentance

June 11, 2017: Sen. Klobuchar Weighs In on “Scaffold”; Trump Budget Hurts Indian County

June 9, 2017: Guest Blog on “Scaffold”: A Sacred Call for Deconstructing Oppression

June 6, 2017: Dakota Elders Put Ceremonial Burning of “Scaffold” Wood on Hold to Build Consensus

June 5, 2017: Applause for Dakota Elders’ Leadership in Taking Down “Scaffold”; Questions Remain about Cultural Appropriation

June 2, 2017: … And “Scaffold” Came Tumbling Down

June 1, 2017: Will Walker Embrace Institutional Changes in the Wake of “Scaffold” Controversy?

May 31, 2017: Please Attend Ceremonial Deconstruction of “Scaffold” at the Walker Sculpture Garden, Friday at 2 p.m.

May 30, 2017: After Dismantling a Sculpture in Wake of Protests, Walker Must Lead Effort to Dismantle Inequity

May 29, 2017: “Scaffold” Sculptor Seems to Contradict Himself

May 29, 2017: “Scaffold” Sculptor Apologizes to Dakota People

May 29, 2017: Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s Statement on Walker’s “Scaffold”: Walk Towards Peace … Take Down the Sculpture

May 29, 2017: Walker Delays Sculpture Garden Reopening, Leaving Space for Mediation with Dakota Elders

May 29, 2017: Dakota Elders Call Dakota Community Meeting to Discuss Walker Art Center’s “Scaffold” Sculpture

May 28, 2017: Walker Art Center Will Remove Scaffold Sculpture, Dialogue with Dakota Elders to Proceed

May 27, 2017: Dakota Elders to Walker Art Center: Tear Down That Scaffold

Media Coverage

Star Tribune

Pioneer Press



City Pages

Rochester Post Bulletin

Mankato Free Press

National News