MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just one week before the grand re-opening of its Sculpture Garden, the Walker Art Center is apologizing for one of its newest structures.

Early Friday afternoon, the Walker published an open letter to The Circle, a Native American news service in Minneapolis.

The apology letter addresses controversy surrounding one of its newest structures, called “Scaffold” by Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant, which is a piecing together of various gallows used in U.S. history.

One of the main inspirations, however, is the 1862 Mankato gallows — where the largest mass execution in U.S. history took place. It’s where 38 Dakota men were hanged after being convicted of rape and murder during the Dakota Wars.

10 04 v4 Walker Addresses Newest Structure Inspired By Mass Hanging Of Dakota Men

(credit: credit: Rosa Maria Ruehling; Commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13))

In the letter, Director Olga Viso acknowledges that the decision to exhibit the work may cause some to question the art center’s sensitivity to the Native American community.

“As director of the Walker, I regret that I did not better anticipate how the work would be received in Minnesota, especially by Native audiences. I should have engaged leaders in the Dakota and broader Native communities in advance of the work’s siting, and I apologize for any pain and disappointment that the sculpture might elicit,” Viso said.

Viso says it’s a “deep learning moment” for the art center for its relationship with Native audiences.

Viso says the next step is a consultation with community members who elect to be involved in the process.

“As part of our active learning we recognize that our work moving forward must be done with the guidance of the Dakota community,” she said.

The Walker is slated to re-open the Sculpture Garden on Saturday, June 3.

Comments (19)
  1. A letter of apology by Olga Viso should be immediately followed by a letter of resignation as Director of the Walker Art Center. A person with such wrong-headed notions of public art has no business continuing in that role. In New Orleans, they are removing sculptures symbolizing racial oppression while the Walker is installing a “Scaffold” inspired by a mass execution of Dakota men? No apology is sufficient. Remove Viso and the eye-sore masquerading as art that she approved.

    1. agreed, this is beyond insulting, it is an obtuse decision made by someone clearly clueless who does not deserve to be in charge of one of our most visible representations of our city.

    2. Yes we need art that addresses the miscarriage of justice, but this is not the way to do it. It is so outrageously disrespectful of a local descendant community that I can’t even imagine how no one stopped to think about how it would be felt. Viso needs to banish himself.

  2. I need contact information for the Director of Walker. This is unacceptable. There is no respect, if there is no respect we cannot heal. This is disgraceful. My descendants were hung at Mankato and I am infuriated that this would even be a thought!

  3. I am Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw and this is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. When will you have a reconstruction of the Aushwitz gas chambers? Tear it down now a fire those who approved this monstrosity and who spent the money to build it. The genocide of the American Indian is unparalleled in history and yet you build this!

  4. Reyna Crow says:

    I agree with Missi Hill- this abomination needs to be removed immediately. I’ll help, and recruit volunteers if needed.

  5. Sam Casper says:

    Why do you peddle hate and open old wounds? Shame on you!

  6. What led to this “artistic” decision? New Orleans just deleted its Confederate statuary and now these bozos go and erect an ART-GALLOWS? Whoa. What next, the Walker Art Gallery commissions this jerk to craft “Arbeit Macht Frei” gates?

  7. I am beyond speechless that an artist can be “inspired” by a shameful act of mass murder committed by our government and that the Director of the Walker Art Center thinks this kind of installation would be appropriate for the sculpture garden.

    While it is important that we educate people about this history along with the oppression that led up to it and that continues to impact the lives of American Indian people in Minnesota, the sculpture garden is hardly the place. This garden has always been a playful presence. Including this installation in the sculpture garden diminishes the seriousness of this matter.

    Viso cannot just send an “oops” letter. She should resign immediately and Walker should make amends to the community by preparing an appropriate indoor installation to educate people on this tragic history and its lasting repercussions.

  8. Cloud Roger says:

    This is Trump’s Amerika, immigrants no matter when or where they immigrated from aren’t afraid to share their true feelings about the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.

  9. As a second generation, born in America, German decedent, from the Mankato, New Ulm area who spent my 6 grade year learning Minnesota history, I find this so called sculpture highly offensive and it should be disassembled immediately. This is NOT art! This is a continuation of the defamation toward the Native American people.

  10. Salina Amey says:

    This is not art. This monstrosity needs to be dismantled and the director needs to be fired.

  11. Director Olga Viso needs to be fired! This is callous and hateful and almost smacks of some premeditated future use! Not to mention a misuse of Government funds (I’m assuming someone so thoughtless would not use her own money!) What’s next? You going to line up all the skeletons of the people who were hanged? A photo lineup of all the child molester victims in the U.S.?? This is the most NEGATIVE HATEFUL thing I ever saw!

  12. History and Art are closely related to every period but methods of execution are not an artistic expression. Therefore they need to be observed separately in their respective venues. Art is from the heart, be it joyful or sorrowful. Execution is the action of carrying out a sentencing exacted by law to end the life of a criminal.

  13. Pondering time to hang the guilty effigy from Monstrosity after soaking in pi$s christ. Flames of hell devour all.

  14. 2017e795 says:

    Maybe next week we can fly in a German gas chamber and call that “art.” Ya know, for a collection

  15. antirepublocrat says:

    No matter what the “inspiration,” gallows, electric chairs, guillotines and gas chambers are not appropriate for a sculpture garden intended for families.

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