Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker gets France’s highest honor

NEW YORK (AP) — Darren Walker, Ford Basis president and preeminent connector and advocate for artists and artwork establishments, joined…

NEW YORK (AP) — Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president and preeminent connector and advocate for artists and art establishments, joined the special organization of worldwide superstars like Stevie Speculate, T.S. Eliot and Meryl Streep, in acquiring France’s maximum cultural honor.

Walker was named commander of France’s Purchase of Arts and Letters for his operate as a benefactor of the arts on Tuesday at a Gilded Age mansion in New York owned by the French embassy.

“Being in this firmament is completely humbling,” Walker advised The Associated Push. “I’m simply just a servant to the plan of art and justice in the environment, simply because we just can’t have justice without the need of artwork.”

Walker became president of the Ford Foundation, one particular of the largest in the U.S., in 2013. He arrived in with a eyesight to condition the organization’s giving to assist social justice in element via funding the arts.

To symbolize that mission, Walker arranged to offer the foundation’s art assortment of performs nearly completely from white male artists. Starting in 2017, the collection shown at the foundation’s properties was rebuilt with some 350 operates of newer artists, several of whom are persons of color, ladies and queer people.

Walker has steadily constructed a connection with French establishments in section since of what he explained as the country’s parallel journeys to live up to their founding ideals of independence or liberty for all, equality and fellowship.

“France, just like America, regretably, has engaged in the exclusion of specially the artwork and tradition and tales of men and women of African descent,” Walker claimed. And just like in The united states, “France is on a journey” toward good inclusion and recognition of the contributions of Black artists, he mentioned.

Underneath his management, the Ford Basis funded an exhibition in New York at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in 2018 that explored the participation of Black products painted by modernists like Edouard Manet in the development of people operates. The exhibition curated by Denise Murrell, who was a fellow at the Ford Foundation at the time, traveled to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris where it designed a massive perception.

Laurence des Cars, who is now president-director of the Louvre Museum, partnered with Walker and Murrell to deliver the show to Paris when she was foremost the Musée d’Orsay.

On Tuesday, she bestowed the honor to Walker on France’s behalf in entrance of 50 friends in a room shimmering with mirrors that overlooks Central Park. Des Autos recalled Walker’s unwavering support of the exhibition that they were being told above and above would trigger troubles.

“You see what other people do not see or refuse to see, and you see what could be,” she said just before placing a medal on a green and white stripped ribbon close to Walker’s neck.

French ambassador Philippe Etienne listed off projects that the Ford Basis and Walker have supported, which include artwork residencies both equally in France and the U.S., and a prepared exhibition highlighting the many Black American artists who spent time in France especially after World War II.

“As president of the Ford Foundation, he delivers the foundation, of class, but he delivers himself much too,” Etienne stated, referring to Walker’s skills and information, “but also a real passion, a real strength.”

Walker sits on the board of the Countrywide Gallery of the Arts, the initially Black person to do so, as very well as the boards of many other arts institutions and corporations.

The Washington-primarily based corporation, Americans for the Arts, invited Walker in 2017 to give an annual deal with where by he created the scenario for general public funding of the arts, tracing his own journey as a child in Texas raised by a single mother to a banker and now main voice in philanthropy.

Nolen V. Bivens, the organization’s president and CEO, mentioned Walker thinks deeply in the electrical power of cultural diplomacy and the electricity of artwork.

“Darren Walker is the most influential arts plan grant maker and I would say considered chief in The usa, specially in the spot of variety and equity,” he claimed, adding that Walker’s “dedication to the assistance of the arts and unquestionably artists is fantastic.”


Linked Push protection of philanthropy and non-income receives help through the AP’s collaboration with The Dialogue US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is only responsible for this written content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, go to

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Kenneth Proto

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