Tommy Tiokasin, of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, held a staff from his tribal community as "Scaffold"  was dismantled in 2017. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune)

"Taku wanji unkoniciyakapi uncinpi," the Walker Art Center's call to artists begins.

The art center, using a mix of Dakota and English languages, announced Wednesday that it was accepting proposals for a public art project. The winning work will be installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden or on the Walker campus by the fall of 2020.

A public call is unusual for the Walker, said Siri Engberg, senior curator of the Walker's visual arts department. Cities are more likely to use such a process, she noted. "But we wanted this to be a process that was understandable to artists, that would cast a wide net...

"This seemed to us to be a good way to get the word out."

The move follows conversations held since the razing in 2017 of "Scaffold," a sculpture by Los Angeles artist Sam Durant that sparked protests outside the sculpture garden. "Artists with in-depth knowledge and understanding of Dakota culture and language are encouraged to apply," the call says.

Proposals are due by April 15.

Walker staff, working with an eight-person committee that includes Native artists and curators, will choose three semifinalists, who will be invited to submit more detailed proposals.

"This project builds on the commitments the Walker has made to the Native community and I am excited to see the proposals and further the conversation," said Mary Ceruti, the Walker's incoming executive director, in a statement.

Partly inspired by the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862, "Scaffold" was intended to be a critique of capital punishment. Instead, it drew anguish from Native American communities and others. Olga Viso, the Walker's director at the time, apologized.

After the sculpture's dismantling in a Dakota-led ceremony, the Walker met with Dakota leaders and formed the public art committee -- a group of Native curators, artists and others. (Members have asked to remain anonymous to ensure the integrity of the application process, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.)

A public art piece is "not necessarily a bronze sculpture," Engberg said. Artists might propose pieces made of light, of sound, of plant material, she said. "It could be many different things.

"We want to keep that very open and encourage artists to be creative in the materials they think about."

But the production budget's limit of $110,000 is based on bronze. The artist selected will recieve a one-time fee of $35,000.

More information about the process can found at the Walker website. The Walker is hosting a series of information sessions starting at 3 p.m. Friday at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, N.D., then Jan. 19 in Sisseton, S.D., Jan. 26 at Mystic Lake Center and Feb. 20 at the Walker.

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