Postponed Life Celebration Gathering for Michelle Walker

Michelle Walker, Executive Director of Metropolitan Arts Partnership

Postponed Life Celebration Gathering for Michelle Walker The Metropolitan Arts Partnership (MAP) has shared with us that the gathering originally set for Monday, February 25th, noon, at the Crocker Art Museum has been postponed with respect to the Walker family's immediate needs. Since SMAC is not the organizer of the life celebration, please contact Oliver Wong at the Metropolitan Arts Partnership at (916) 442-4016 ext. 202 or if you have any questions.
I worked with Michelle from 1992 – 1999- as an artist, and art consultant, and the first Arts Education and Outreach Coordinator for the City of Sacramento, where Michelle advocated for the position, because of her dedication to arts education. She support the African American Art Summit -1993 as a speaker, while manager of the Art and Public Places Program. She encouraged African American artists of Sacramento to position themselves for public art projects by following guidelines, perfecting resumes, submitting work samples, and working in partnership with other organization to strengthen community.

I resigned that position in 1999 to move to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute. She was one of the women administrators I interviewed in 2000 as a case study for my masters thesis in arts administration,"Problems and Considerations for Women, Administrating Public Art Programs.”

Over the years Michelle and I have had lunch together when I was visiting Sacramento, met for coffee during a layover at Ohara Airport as she was flying back to Sacramento, from one of her many trips to one national conference or another. 

Over the years time and distance has made our touching base less and less, it has sadden me that a sistah-friend, and colleague has passed from this world, before I got a chance to visit, catch up on our life stories, talk abour our daughters, and share our commonalities one last time, between our ever so busy schedules.

Metropolitan Arts Partnership 2006 to 2013
Michelle Walker, served as the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Arts Partnership 2006 to 2013. (MAP) is designed to increase traditionally under-served audiences by strengthening arts education and outreach programs in schools, performance venues and neighborhood centers, which are provided by our affiliated members throughout Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, El Dorado, Sutter and Yuba Counties.

The Sacramento Bee: By Robert D. D├ívila – Updated: Wednesday, February 6 2013 - 7:52 am
Born in 1959 in Los Angeles, Michelle Angela Walker grew up with two brothers painting, singing, drawing and playing music. Her mother painted, and her father played drums in a band.
She studied guitar and was a competitive ice skater. She was an accomplished ceramic artist who sold her works to make money and earned a dance degree from California State University, Long Beach.
She formed a dance company and performed on TV on “Soul Train.” She earned a master’s degree in public administration from California Lutheran University and was assistant education director at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art before settling in Sacramento.

Ms. Walker, who raised a daughter, attributed her work as an arts activist to an “awareness of changing, perfecting and flexibility” that she learned as a young dancer.
“I began to realize that the exposure I had taken for granted, others didn’t have,” she said. “And I became committed to arts education; what it can do for you as a person and how it can make you explore who you are.”

Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission from 1992 to 2006
Shelly Willis Interim Director & Art in Public Places Director It is with great sadness that I inform you that last week Michelle Walker, Director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission from 1992 to 2006.
Through interviews with former staff and Arts Commissioners, I heard over and over again that throughout her career Michelle supported, advocated and worked tirelessly for arts education and equity of access to the arts. She began her professional career as an artist and was an accomplished ceramicist and dancer, receiving a BFA in Dance.

In fact, colleague, friend, and Director of Placer Arts, Angela Tahti told me Michelle financed her college education through the sales of her ceramic work. Perhaps it was this experience that made her so committed to fighting for artists when she later became an arts administrator. “She respected the work of individual artists and fought to pay them well,” said Josie Talamantez, former Chief of Programs at the California Arts Council. Later in life, Michelle received a Masters in Public Administration and flourished in the 14 years she served as SMAC’s Director.

She was instrumental in founding the Sacramento Philharmonic and helped steward the commissioning of major public artworks at the Sacramento International Airport Terminal A. In 2004 she founded World Arts, a 2-year long, free arts education program which provided students with in-depth arts experiences, 5-days a week, all summer, in Oak Park. Michelle helped champion Surreal Estates, a unique artist live/work community that includes 11 single family units in Sacramento. The idea for the development came from a series of meetings in 1992 dedicated to cleaning up Del Paso Boulevard and turning it into a cultural magnet.

The project was partially subsidized by SMUD and monitored by the company as a pilot project. She also reached beyond City and County government funding for the arts to the private sector for support. “Michelle identified alternative resources for the arts, establishing the Arts Commission’s nonprofit arm, Friends of the Arts Commission while growing work place giving,” said Barbara Bonebrake, the City of Sacramento, Convention, Culture and Leisure Department Director.

“The Sacramento art community has suffered a great loss with Michelle’s passing.” Michelle was an advocate for all the arts, but had a soft spot for traditional folk art forms, according to Rhyena Halpern, former Executive Director of the Arts Commission, “She had exceptional gifts of insight and understanding, and a sweetness to her that I will always hold dear. Her good fight made life better for many artists, arts organizations, social service organizations and all the people they served.”

“Michelle was a true champion for underserved communities, developing programs to provide arts access to all neighborhoods and ethnicities. Her leadership of the regional Metropolitan Arts Partnership leveraged support through workplace giving to many arts providers region-wide,” said Tahti, “She will be missed.”

On behalf of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, we offer our deepest condolences to Michelle’s daughter, Ondrea, her brother Pierre and Mother Aurolie Walker.