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

May 24, 2022, 8:55 PM | Updated: May 27, 2022, 9:52 am
This photo provided by Ford Foundation shows Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation re...

This photo provided by Ford Foundation shows Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation receiving France’s highest cultural honor in recognition of his support of the arts and artists on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at the French embassy in New York. “Being in this firmament is absolutely humbling,” Walker told The Associated Press. “I’m simply a servant to the idea of art and justice in the world, because we can’t have justice without art.” (Kisha Bari/Ford Foundation via AP)

(Kisha Bari/Ford Foundation via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president and preeminent connector and advocate for artists and art institutions, joined the exclusive company of global superstars like Stevie Wonder, T.S. Eliot and Meryl Streep, in receiving France’s highest cultural honor.

Walker was named commander of France’s Order of Arts and Letters for his work 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 absolutely humbling,” Walker told The Associated Press. “I’m simply a servant to the idea of art and justice in the world, because we can’t have justice without art.”

Walker became president of the Ford Foundation, one of the largest in the U.S., in 2013. He came in with a vision to shape the organization’s giving to support social justice in part through funding the arts.

To symbolize that mission, Walker arranged to sell the foundation’s art collection of works almost exclusively from white male artists. Starting in 2017, the collection displayed at the foundation’s buildings was rebuilt with some 350 works of newer artists, many of whom are people of color, women and queer people.

Walker has steadily built a connection with French institutions in part because of what he described as the country’s parallel journeys to live up to their founding ideals of freedom or liberty for all, equality and fellowship.

“France, just like America, unfortunately, has engaged in the exclusion of especially the art and culture and stories of people of African descent,” Walker said. And just like in America, “France is on a journey” toward great inclusion and recognition of the contributions of Black artists, he said.

Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation funded an exhibition in New York at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in 2018 that explored the participation of Black models painted by modernists like Edouard Manet in the creation of those works. 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 made a big impression.

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

On Tuesday, she bestowed the honor to Walker on France’s behalf in front of 50 guests in a room shimmering with mirrors that overlooks Central Park. Des Cars recalled Walker’s unwavering support of the exhibition that they were told over and over would cause problems.

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

French ambassador Philippe Etienne listed off projects that the Ford Foundation and Walker have supported, including art residencies both in France and the U.S., and a planned exhibition highlighting the many Black American artists who spent time in France especially after World War II.

“As president of the Ford Foundation, he brings the foundation, of course, but he brings himself too,” Etienne said, referring to Walker’s expertise and knowledge, “but also a real passion, a real energy.”

Walker sits on the board of the National Gallery of Art, the first Black man to do so, as well as the boards of many other arts institutions and companies.

The Washington-based organization, Americans for the Arts, invited Walker in 2017 to give an annual address where he made the case for public funding of the arts, tracing his own journey as a child in Texas raised by a single mother to a banker and now leading voice in philanthropy.

Nolen V. Bivens, the organization’s president and CEO, said Walker believes deeply in the power of cultural diplomacy and the power of art.

“Darren Walker is the most influential arts policy grant maker and I would say thought leader in America, especially in the area of diversity and equity,” he said, adding that Walker’s “dedication to the support of the arts and certainly artists is exceptional.”

___

This story corrects the name of the National Gallery of Art. It is not the National Gallery of the Arts.

___

Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and non-profits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to go on duty to their positions at the frontline near Kharkiv, Ukrain...
Associated Press

Governor: Russians gaining foothold in pivotal Ukraine city

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are strengthening their positions in a grueling fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the region’s governor said Sunday. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city of Lysychansk, and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did […]
1 day ago
FILE - A boy holds a sign saying "All men are created equal," as he attends a protest on June 7, 20...
Associated Press

The long, ongoing debate over ‘All men are created equal’

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Jennings is CEO of the Lambda Legal organization, a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights. He sees his mission in part as fulfilling that hallowed American principle: “All men are created equal.” “Those words say to me, ‘Do better, America.’ And what I mean by that is we have never been […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Bus falls into deep ravine in southwest Pakistan, killing 19

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A passenger bus slid off a mountain road and fell into a deep ravine in heavy rain in southwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing 19 people and injuring 12 others, a government official said. Mahtab Shah, assistant administrator for the district of Shirani in Baluchistan province, said about 35 passengers were traveling […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics play in game 4 of series

Oakland Athletics (26-54, fifth in the AL West) vs. Seattle Mariners (38-42, third in the AL West) Seattle; Sunday, 4:10 p.m. EDT PITCHING PROBABLES: Athletics: Frankie Montas (3-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 99 strikeouts); Mariners: Robbie Ray (6-6, 3.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 105 strikeouts) FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Mariners -153, Athletics +129; over/under is 6 1/2 […]
1 day ago
FILE - A pro-Russian separatist clears the way for a combat vehicle in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Wednesda...
Associated Press

Splintered Ukrainian city braces for new battle with Russia

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — A group of young off-duty Ukrainian soldiers gathered at a military distribution center to enjoy a rare respite from the fighting that has again engulfed their fractured home in eastern Ukraine. As they shared jokes and a pizza, artillery explosions could be heard a few kilometers away — a reminder of […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

North Texas shooter kills 2, wounds 3 cops, takes own life

HALTOM CITY, Texas (AP) — A gunman killed two people and wounded four others, including three police officers, before taking his own life Saturday evening in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, police said. Haltom City Police Det. Matt Spillane said early Sunday that all of those wounded in the shooting in a residential neighborhood had non-life […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker gets France’s highest honor