The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis revealed on Tuesday that Seena Hodges was elected earlier this month to serve as the next president of its board of trustees. She is the first African American and the first person of color ever to hold the position. During its recent meeting, the board also approved a new five-year strategic plan. Hodges replaces John Christakos, who will remain on its executive committee.
Her appointment comes as museums across the U.S. make a push to diversify their boards. When the Art Institute of Chicago named Denise Gardner board chair, the New York Times reported that she may have been the first Black woman to hold such a position at a major U.S. museum.
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“Seena Hodges is exactly the right leader for the Walker in this moment as we embark on a new strategic plan that focuses on connecting the brilliant creativity of artists to the lived experiences of our audiences,” Walker Art Center executive director Mary Ceruti said in a statement. Ceruti added that, with Hodges and the board, she will look to make the Walker into a “space for all and build bridges between artists and cultural producers from around the world and our local communities.”
Hodges joined the Walker’s board after co-chairing the 2017 iteration of its annual gala, Avant Garden. The year before, she had helped create the museum’s BIPOC Artist Fund, which seeks to ensure that local contemporary artists of color are involved in all aspects of the Walker. In the past five years, the fund has provided 400 year-long memberships and 700 gala tickets to BIPOC artists.
Hodges, who runs a Twin Cities–based DEI consulting firm called Woke Coach, has served on the Walker’s executive committee and its racial equity committee. She is also a member of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, a collective of Black arts patrons across North America, and she is currently at work on a book titled From Ally to Accomplice: How to Lead as a Fierce Antiracist, which will be published next year.
Alongside Hodges, Karen Heithoff and D. Ellen Wilson will act as vice presidents, Sarah Lynn Oquist will serve as treasure, and Teresa Rasmussen will be secretary. This marks the first time the Walker board’s officer positions are all held by women.
In a statement, Hodges said, “I have always been fascinated by how art, particularly contemporary art, connects us to others through its ability to simultaneously shift and broaden our understanding and perspectives. It allows us to engage with difference and see beyond it at the very same time. When you spend time in the Walker you can’t help but feel the passion, the tenacity, the fervor for experimentation and risk-taking.”