Minneapolis Sculpture Garden reopening postponed over 'Scaffold' controversy

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The reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has been postponed until Saturday, June 10 as the Walker Art Center, Dakota Elders and Minneapolis Park Board continue their discussions over the controversial addition of artist Sam Durant's sculpture "Scaffold." The garden was scheduled to hold its grand reopening on June 3.

"Scaffold" is a large wooden structure based off of a mass-hanging of 38 members of the Dakota tribe in Mankato in 1862. For many in the Native American community, the sight of the “Scaffold” structure in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was piercing. The 1862 execution is considered one of the most traumatic experiences in their history.

Walker Art Center executive director Olga Viso said she regrets the pain the artwork has brought to the Dakota community. Viso apologized in a letter to The Circle, an American Indian community newspaper.

"I should have engaged leaders in the Dakota and broader Native communities in advance of the work's siting, and I apologize for any pain and disappointment that the sculpture might elicit," Viso wrote.

The Walker announced on Saturday that the artist, Sam Durant, has agreed to changes in the sculpture. These changes could include dismantling it altogether.

"It's just wood and metal,” said Durant in a statement to the Walker. “Nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people."

The exact changes will be made in consultation with traditional Dakota tribal elders. Due to the piece’s deep roots in their history, many think that the elders should have been consulted from the beginning.

Private mediation with the Dakota elders has been scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, May 31. During the meeting, decisions will be made about what will happen to the sculpture. Dakota elders will gather Tuesday evening in advance of the mediation to share information about the sculpture, discuss the Walker's response and make a coordinated decision about the next steps.

Statement from Olga Viso, Walker Art Center Executive Director, and Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent:

Dakota Elders Announcement