Wrapping up its 75th anniversary season, Walker Art Center announced Tuesday that it balanced its $21 million annual budget, increased attendance and received a significant number of gifts of art in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
”It’s been a banner year on every level,” said director Olga Viso. “The gifts have been a real hallmark of the anniversary as we secured 126 artworks from a range of donors including artists we have a long history with, like Chuck Close and Siah Armajani, and long-standing donors.”
The gifts are the culmination of a three-year effort to enhance the collection in honor of the Walker’s 75th year as a contemporary art center.
Also this year, the complex on Hennepin Avenue began construction of a new entrance pavilion opposite the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The pavilion is expected to open in 2016.
Viso said the Walker is nearing completion of a $75 million endowment and capital campaign to support operations and to pay for the pavilion, interior remodeling and landscaping.
“We are now 85 percent of the way,” she said.
The construction program also includes $10 million in public money for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: $8.5 million in bonding from the state of Minnesota plus $1.5 million from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. The sculpture garden work is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Attendance at Walker-related programs totaled just under 700,000 — a 9 percent increase from the previous year. Nearly 60 percent of those were visitors to the sculpture garden. Of the remainder, 162,781 toured the Walker’s galleries, 93,650 attended on-site films and performances, and 31,528 went to off-site events including co-productions with the SPCO, Cedar Cultural Center and other venues.
“Our attendance is up in every category, and we are really proud of our exhibitions that are traveling nationally and internationally,” Viso said. “It was a big year for Walker-produced content.”
In the past year, Walker shows were seen by an additional 227,325 people at museums around the country and internationally.
Exhibition highlights include a display of 75 gifts representing the past 75 years; an ambitious show of “International Pop” paintings, sculpture and multimedia work, and “Hippie Modernism,” a reappraisal of innovative 1960s design and technological developments.
The institution actually started in 1879 when Minneapolis lumber baron T.B. Walker began showing his private collection in a suite of rooms attached to his Hennepin Avenue home. In 1927, he moved the collection to a Moorish-style museum he built on the site of the present Walker. In 1940, the institution changed its focus to contemporary art.
At the fiscal year’s end the center’s endowment stood at $201.3 million. Its membership fell 6.4 percent to 7,141, a drop that officials attributed to free programming and a midyear rise in adult gallery ticket prices to $14.
Staff turnover was also significant in 2015, especially among senior curators. Design and architecture curator Andrew Blauvelt, associate film curator Dean Otto and art curators Bart Ryan and Eric Crosby took jobs elsewhere.