In an Instagram post on Wednesday afternoon, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis officially cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department – for now. With their statement, the Walker Art Center became the first museum to take direct action in addition to supporting protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the family of George Floyd.
“The Walker will no longer contract the services of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) for special events,” stated the museum on Instagram, “until the MPD implements meaningful change by demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for the use of excessive force, and treating communities of color with dignity and respect. Enough is enough. George Floyd should still be alive. Black lives matter.”
In the past, the museum, like many, contracted off-duty police to work as museum security for special events. The Walker’s decision to cut ties with the MPD until meaningful change happens was the first public announcement of its kind in the US. Some commended the museum’s efforts but many felt that ties should be cut permanently.
Falling in line with the actions taken by the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Art confirmed in a correspondence with Artnet News that it “will no longer contract with off-duty police officers from the MPD.”
The Walker’s announcement came as many museums across the US are facing backlash after they were slow to respond after the death of George Floyd at the hands of MPD officers. In addition to their tardiness, prominent concerns amongst those responding to museum announcements included the lack of direct language, skirting difficult subjects, and concern for what actions will changes will actually be made as museums move forward.
Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum was among those that was called out by the public when its parking lot was used by the Kansas City Police Department as a “command post area” in response to nearby protests on May 29th. On June 1st, Nelson-Atkins director Julián Zugazagoitia took to Instagram to express solidarity, explain the situation, and apologize stating, in part:
“The museum’s longstanding work toward inclusion was brought into question over the weekend with the image of police vehicles staged against the backdrop of the museum on Friday. We deeply regret and understand the hurt and the confusion that this caused. […] When I was made aware of this on Saturday, I was in touch with police to ask them to relocate, which they did on Saturday and Sunday.
We feel the hurt of the nation. At the museum, our priorities remain firmly in place: to care for our community, to care for our works of art, and to further a quest for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.”
The post was met with mixed responses, some praising the museum while others condemned them further believing the statement was not enough. One commenter stated “BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS, REPARATIONS NOW.”
The Walker Art Center is located in the city where, on May 25th, Floyd was killed by MPD officer Derek Chauvin while three other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, did not intervene. Chauvin was subsequently fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Yesterday, after public outcry, Chauvin’s charges were upped to second-degree murder and officers Lane, Kueng, and Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder.