Director, Walker Art Center
Olga Viso became director of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in January 2008 following twelve years at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution (two of which she served as director). Viso oversees the Walker’s operations and its multidisciplinary, international art programs. She has led the development of new, long-range plans for the next decade that will expand the Walker’s collaborations across disciplines and more deeply engage artists and audiences. Viso’s expertise in contemporary Latin American art is wide-ranging; she is the author of the book Unseen Mendieta (Prestel), which showcases the late Cuban artist’s ephemeral, time-based artworks. Viso is also the originating curator of the traveling exhibition Everything: Guillermo Kuitca, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980–2008, which she originated while at the Hirschhorn and will coordinate when the exhibition is presented at the Walker later this year.
Under Viso’s leadership, the Hirshhorn shifted its focus to present more contemporary international art in all media. She extended the museum’s presentations and programs beyond the gallery spaces, engaging the public with artists and installations in the museum garden, building and around the city.
As a multidisciplinary art center that presents emerging talents in the visual, performing, and media arts from around the world, the Walker Art Center takes seriously its mission to be a creative catalyst. That mission inspires us through the most challenging times. While taking risks can be difficult for many institutions in the face of fewer resources, for the Walker staff, board of trustees, and its generous community of donors, finding innovative ways of working together to better serve artists and audiences has always been our practice. Now, we are ever more emboldened to direct our energies and resources to advance cultural production through the direct support of artists and to foster our local and global arts ecology. Indeed, this work has never been more urgent.
For the Walker, this means collaborating more in the coming year across disciplines, finding new partners in our community and beyond, inviting artists and other cultural thinkers to help us re-imagine the potential of the museum, and embracing anew our civic mission. It also means harnessing the power of technology to share and shape knowledge collectively and more broadly. ArtsConnectEd.org, developed jointly by the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, is a good example of the potential of this vision. This powerful, Internet-based gateway for teachers, parents, and students combines the collections of both institutions and brings arts education into schools and directly into homes as funding for education across the country diminishes.
Over the past decade, 25 Walker-organized exhibitions have traveled to 57 museums in 14 countries. 2009–2010 will be our most internationally diverse dance season ever, including Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Senegalese, and Brazilian performers, many commissioned by us. In the Walker Cinema, new films from Iran will be a highlight. With over six million users online, the Walker Channel will continue to expand the ways artists and audiences come together—both on site and online—to examine the power of creative expression and the questions that inspire and shape us as individuals, cultures, and communities.