Artist and arts administrator Jade Walker has been named the new manager and curator of the Elisabet Ney Museum, the city of Austin Parks and Recreation Department announced.
Walker succeeds Oliver Franklin who passed away last spring after a decade of leading the museum which is the historic studio and home of the trailblazing German-American sculptor. The museum is part of the Museums and Cultural Programs Division of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
Walker arrives at the Ney with more than 22 years of experience as a curator, arts administrator, and visual artist.
“Jade has been a friend to the arts and artists for many decades, and we look forward to the direction she will carve for the Ney,” says Laura Esparza, Division Manager.
Walker is the first woman sculptor to lead the 111-year-old museum.
“I am thrilled to illuminate the work of fellow female sculptor, Elisabet Ney,” said Walker in a press statement. “In sharing her life, studio, artist practice, and celebrated work with new audiences and in dialogue with contemporary female identifying artists, there are opportunities to learn so much about this unique artist.”
Among Walker’s immediate priorities will be working with MuseWorks, LLC on a new interpretive plan for the Ney, funded through the efforts of the Friends of the Ney, an independent support organization.
The plan is part of a $3.4 million renovation.
The new interpretive scope will spotlight fresh research that will tell Ney’s story in a contemporary context. A classically-trained sculptor, Ney is known for her life-size marble statues of notable people as well as literary and biblical figures. After immigrating from Germany, she settled in Austin at age 59 and built a studio of rough-cut limestone block along Waller Creek in the Hyde Park neighborhood. She enlarged it in 1902 to include more living space in a two-story wing topped with a crenelated tower.
For ten years, Walker served as executive director and curator of the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas, nurturing it from its beginnings as an off-campus project space through to its current incarnation as a major on-campus venue. While at UT, she also curated the gallery at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center and taught classes in three-dimensional design.
In her prior experience, Walker was executive director of Art Alliance of Austin. She also administered the art school at Laguna Gloria and coordinated the Baughman Center venue at the University of Florida Performing Arts Center. She was named Visual Artist of the Year, by the Critics’ Table in 2016 for her work as a sculptor.
Most recently, Walker was herself a resident artist of the Elisabet Ney Museum as part of the Division’s ArtsResponders program, as artists responded to the COVID-19 pandemic through citywide social practice art installations. Walker’s installation was called “Mire + Mend.”
In January, Walker will have a solo exhibition at Women and Their Work.
Walker received a BFA in sculpture from the University of Florida, and an MFA in sculpture from UT.She has had solo shows at the Austin Museum of Art (now The Contemporary Austin), Blue Star Contemporary Arts (San Antonio, TX), Dimension Gallery (Austin, TX), Lawndale Art Center (Houston, TX), The Museum of Pocket Art (Austin, TX and traveling).