Walker Art Center names new executive director

photo of mary ceruti
Courtesy of the Walker Art Center
Mary Ceruti

The Walker Art Center has named its third female executive director in a row. Mary Ceruti, who currently leads SculptureCenter, a multidisciplinary organization in Long Island City, New York, will follow Olga Viso, who followed Kathy Halbreich.

Both Viso and Halbreich completed large capital campaigns and major transformations to the Walker’s 1971 red brick Barnes building and campus. Ceruti, who will start in late January, comes to a Walker that has Halbreich’s gleaming, angular Herzog & de Meuron expansion and Viso’s transformation of the Sculpture Garden and the Walker’s grounds, with the unifying HGA-designed entry pavilion the crowning touch. Building- and grounds-wise, the Walker seems good to go for the next several years.

Ceruti’s hiring comes almost a year to the day when Viso announced that she would step down. Viso’s final months were shadowed by the “Scaffold” controversy: the installation, public outcry over and removal of a gallows-like sculpture in the Sculpture Garden that referenced the hangings of 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862. Between Viso’s departure and now, an “executive office” of four administrators ran things. After the glare of an unfavorable spotlight – the “Scaffold” controversy made international headlines – Walker news settled back down into previews, reviews and speculation over who the next ED would be.

Ceruti has led SculptureCenter for nearly 20 years. Before then, she was program director for Capp Street Project in San Francisco. She began her career at Philadelphia Museum of Art. She’s known for supporting emerging artists, attracting and developing talent, and understanding artists’ needs. Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg describes her as “one of the most respected and well-liked arts leaders in New York … admired by the artists and her staff for her courage, kindness and integrity.”

At SculptureCenter, Ceruti has overseen all aspects of program, planning, and organizational development, spearheaded two major building projects, organized dozens of group exhibitions of contemporary art, and curated special projects and commissions by over 50 international artists. In 2013, she co-curated the Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Ceruti said in a statement, “I am honored to be selected as the next director of this great institution and believe it is uniquely positioned to create new models for how museums work with artists and diverse constituencies. … SculptureCenter and the Walker share a commitment to art and artists as catalysts in contemporary culture and both are working internationally to identify the art and artists that most creatively and urgently express the concerns, issues and ideas of our time.”

Ceruti will join a cohort of female museum directors in the Twin Cities that also includes (in alphabetical order) Alison Brown at the Science Museum, Kaywin Feldman at Mia, Dianne Krizan at the Children’s Museum, Kristin Makholm at the M, Cedar Imboden Phillips at the Hennepin History Museum and Denise Young at the Bell. And Lyndel King at the Weisman, who announced in June that she will step down – but not until June 2020, giving her time to raise funds for her successor.

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