Submission of Excellence: Walker Art Center

Through its new website, the Walker Art Center addresses the trends of a quickly changing museum world – where audiences have increasing demands and growing power and the lines between content provider and distributor are being redefined.  Increasingly, institutions are struggling with the intersection between communications, interpretation, publishing, and audience engagement in onsite and online platforms where the public itself is now claiming some authority.

Director Olga Viso and a projection of the new Walker website.
Director Olga Viso and a projection of the new Walker website.

A multifaceted online hub

The new website makes visible the Walker’s role as a producer and purveyor of content and a voice in the landscape of contemporary culture.  Resembling an online art magazine in its design and format, it provides a multifaceted publishing platform—unique among museums worldwide.

Here, essays on contemporary art coexist with news about the Walker’s own programs and collections.  The public has a voice in the site’s content, whether it is responding to articles and blogs with its own commentary, or sharing the Walker’s posts across embedded social media platforms.  Artists’ voices are also key in the digital platform.  Through interviews, original essays, videos, streamed lectures, and a section pulled from the archives, the artist has moved from the physical spaces of the Walker to a universe of unlimited audience around the globe.

Increasing audience engagement online 

After two years in development, the site launched on December 1, 2011 to critical acclaim from media and audiences alike.  In the first six months, the Walker has seen a 40% increase in visitors over the previous year—this includes a 30% increase in global audiences.  Additionally, new visits to the site have increased 45% over the previous year.  This is a testament to the site’s design, rich content, and improved search features make even the most deeply buried content more readily findable.  Additionally, visitors are spending more time on each web page (and visiting more pages overall) than in the past, which indicates success from an audience engagement perspective.

Members of the Walker Art Center’s New Media Initiatives and Design Departments.
Members of the Walker Art Center’s New Media Initiatives and Design Departments.

A new online approach motivates internal changes

Finally, the website is changing how the Walker staff members function internally.  The site presents content as narratives that appeal to engaged readers rather than as promotional vehicles geared toward reinforcing departmental designations within the organization.  This approach underscores two efforts at the Walker: the audience-centered work of the new Audience Engagement and Communication Division and the interdisciplinary workgroup, which focuses on cooperation across departments.  This shift in how we tell our story promotes a shared sense of mission.

About Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences.  Focusing on the visual, performing, and media arts of our time, the Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection, and preservation of art.  Walker programs examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities.


Ryan French is Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Walker Art Center overseeing the advertising, communications, media relations, and audience research strategies.