In 1999, the Walker received a major grant from the Bush Foundation's Cultural Development Fund to support a four-year Bush Global Initiative, which has resulted in a transformation of our curatorial and interpretive practices. It has also inspired a season of multidisciplinary programming that questions ways that art and culture are defined and presented in a global context: How are art practices changing around the world? How does a contemporary art center take into consideration social, political, and historical shifts? How do Western notions of art and art history apply today to artists around the world? And how does one define "global," anyway?
With support from the Bush Foundation, the Walker formed a committee made up of curators and scholars from Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States to help us become better global partners and presenters. Members of the Bush Global Advisory Committee are: Walter Chakela, Director, Windybrow Theater, Johannesburg, South Africa; Vishakha N. Desai, Senior Vice President/Director, Galleries and Cultural Programs, the Asia Society, New York; Hou Hanru, Paris-based independent curator-critic with an emphasis on contemporary Chinese art; Paulo Herkenhoff, independent curator, São Paulo, Brazil, and former Adjunct Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Vasif Kortun, Director, Proje4l and Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum, Istanbul, Turkey; Hidenaga Otori, theater critic, Tokyo; and Baraka Sele, Curator and Producer, New Jersey Performing Arts Center World Festival, Newark, New Jersey. Committee members met at the Walker twice a year for five days each time to expand the theoretical reach of Walker curators and educators, critique Walker programs, and help Walker curators make contacts in their home countries. The results of these conversations and travels are highlighted in a season of programming featuring an array of new work from countries represented by our Global Committee members, as well as Argentina, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Mali, and Pakistan.
Advisory Committee member Baraka Sele observes: "In my mind, the term 'global' implies how the creation and representation of art and culture dynamically impact economic, educational, political, racial, religious, social, or spiritual phenomena not only for our own institution or community, but also in the communities where the artists we present live and work. Such work takes years of deep engagement, discussion, development of methodology, and practice. The Walker Art Center has taken the time to begin this arduous journey, and the entire international programming field will be the beneficiaries of their vision."
Walker Director Kathy Halbreich recently presented the Bush Global Initiative as a case study for transforming institutional practice at an international conference organized by the Rockefeller Foundation. "This institutional initiative gave us time to think, to examine the questions which shape us as individuals, communities, and cultures with colleagues from across the disciplines and around the globe," she said. "The remarkable thing about the process was that a miracle happened: colleagues became friends, debates became passionate arguments, the world grew simultaneously larger and smaller. We all are changed, and I hope our audiences will experiences these changes as well. While we may be sitting in the middle of the country, we also are participating in the dramas, disasters, and dilemmas that have shaped the world we share and the art made out of those experiences. The Bush grant helped us become better-informed citizens, as well as practitioners, for which we are profoundly grateful."