Walker into the future

The fresh-faced Walker Art Center should become a cultural hub of the Twin Cities.

Some familiar names in the art world: New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

There are others, but these museums are some of the most well-known contemporary art exhibitors in the nation. The Midwest has a contemporary art hub as well; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

But aside from the popularity of the center’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture, the center has not made a name for itself like other contemporary art museums in other parts of the nation. Even the spoon-and-cherry sculpture, though recognized as a Minnesotan landmark, is not immediately associated with the center.

After more than a year of expansion and remodeling, the center is reopening its doors Sunday with a grand celebration complete with exhibitions, dance, film and music. The expansion cost approximately $130.5 million; $25 million coming from Minneapolis for a parking ramp and the rest provided mostly through private donations.

The new center should be worth the wait and the money. The addition and remodeling has created a space far more enjoyable to be in than the formal, but boring original 1971 design. The building should be as new and as exciting as the works in and around it.

Unfortunately, the center will lose the Guthrie Theater in May as the theater prepares to open its equallyexpensive new facility near the edge of the Mississippi River. The move looks to be good both for the Walkeras well as the Guthrie.

But if the center can offer reasonable prices that allow anyone to peruse its revamped galleries and attend performances, it has the potential to become a social center in the Twin Cities. Too often centers of art become elitist institutions because of costs. Sadly, elitism in the field of art is self suffocating. Art centers become intimidating and as unapproachable as the mysterious mansion on the hill and the exchange between the public and the arts institutions becomes stale. Nobody wants an arts center that seems to be dying of gangrene, a lack of new blood..

It should be a place for people to gather, socialize and get a bit of culture. That’s what an art museum should be and that’s how the Walker will make itself known.