MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Walker Art Center is responding to overwhelming anger over a new piece of art in the Sculpture Garden.
Big crowds gathered outside the Sculpture Garden to protest “The Scaffold,” which is one of 18 new structures taking part in the garden’s grand reopening. The piece is by Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant, and is inspired by various gallows used in U.S. history.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Walker Art Center said it plans to take the structure down.
Looking at the Scaffold from a distance you might think it’s a giant wooden jungle gym. But the design is a composite of gallows used in history, including the largest mass execution in U.S. history that took place right here in Minnesota.
Native Americans are outraged that the Scaffold partly replicates the 1862 Mankato Gallows. That is when 38 Dakota tribe members were hanged during the Dakota Wars.
“This was used to murder,” Shannon Nordby said. “Like it’s a actual replica, same size as what was made in Mankato.”
The structure hasn’t even officially opened to the public yet so it’s blocked off with construction fence. Friday, protesters put up signs on that fence and made their voices heard, demanding the Walker Art Center take down the Scaffold.
“We’re talking about a structure that people are going to be climbing and playing on, and this is a replica that symbolizes one of the greatest traumas that happened to our people,” one protester said.
Saturday, the signs had been taken down.
Sam Wounded Knee heard about the sculpture on Facebook. He brought his children with him to see it.
“First thing I thought was of my people getting killed in there. Murdered,” he said.
“It’s 2017 and I never thought my kids would have to see something like this. In a way I think it’s good for them to know their history, to see this, so that they will know that they’re going to grow up to fight this, because that’s the way my parents taught me.”
The Sculpture Garden is scheduled to reopen June 3.
The Walker’s Executive Director Olga Viso released the following statement Saturday:
“Because we are keenly aware of how important the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is to the community, city and state, we have been taking the public response over the last 24 hours very seriously.
“The responses have overwhelmingly conveyed and expressed anger and sadness that Scaffold has caused the Dakota community and beyond.
“As the Executive Director of the Walker, I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others.
“Prompted by the outpouring of community feedback, the artist Sam Durant is open to many outcomes including the removal of the sculpture. He has told me, ‘It’s just wood and metal – nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.’
“I am in agreement with the artist that the best way to move forward is to have Scaffold dismantled in some manner and to listen and learn from the Elders. The details of how and when will be determined by Traditional Spiritual Dakota Elders at a meeting scheduled with the Walker and the artist on Wednesday, May 31 with the support of a mediator selected by the Elders. This is the first step in a long process of healing.
“We will continue listening and communicating to the public as plans develop in partnership with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.”
Members of the Dakota tribe said they will come back every day to protests until Scaffold is down.