Soundboard: Pressing Cultural Questions, Multiple Voices

At the heart of the Walker Art Center’s—and Walker Reader’s—mission is a call to “examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities.” I conceived of Soundboard as a way for the museum to embrace this aim, as a forum through which we could tackle myriad questions—sometimes thorny, sometimes philosophical, always, I hope, worth considering—that surround the work of making, presenting, understanding, and living with art. Through a single interface, an array of voices are invited to respond to a pressing cultural question of our time. Just click an author portrait to read a new text.

Launched in March 2018, we’ve published six editions to date, featuring 27 voices, each compensated for their contribution, from a diversity of backgrounds, geographies, and perspectives (artists, museum directors, critics, journalists, filmmakers, art programmers, etc.). In hopes of setting a tone of brave inquiry, the first edition tackled a topic of deep concern to the Walker: allegations of sexual harassment against Chuck Close, an artist we've been very supportive of in the past (we're the first museum to purchase one of his paintings, we've organized two solo shows, and we hold 18 works in our collection). Five figures—including YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan and artist Rashayla Marie Brown—shared their perspectives on the question, "How Should Museums Deal with Art by Alleged Harassers?" Successive editions looked at: ways to create a queer design pedagogy (guest-edited by designer Nicole Killian); the roles of art and journalism in understanding policies around the US/Mexico border; recommended New Year's resolutions for museums in the age of #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #DecolonizeThis; and what it means to have an Indigenous lens in filmmaking (guest edited by Hud Oberly of the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program). The most recent, published in March 2019, features six perspectives on how artists can help build a more equitable internet. Guest-edited by Are.na, an online social networking community and creative research platform, it’s our first editorial partnership with a fellow publication for the Soundboard series.

This multi-author tool helps us live out our institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion (we pay all writers and use diversity as a lens when selecting contributors and topics), to robust inquiry and discussion, to our multidisciplinary approach to art, and to using Walker Reader as a way to ensure a meaningful experience for virtual visitors independent of their proximity to the Walker or ability to visit us in person.