Taking a Walk on the Wild Side: The Museum of Walking
Angela Ellsworth, the director and co-founder of the Museum of Walking, tells us more about what makes this museum so unique.
Angela Ellsworth is the director and co-founder of the Museum of Walking (MoW) in Phoenix, Arizona. As an artist and associate professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University, she is interested in merging art with everyday life, colliding public and private experiences with unexpected spaces. Her disciplines range from drawing, sculpture, installation, video, and performance. She has presented work nationally and internationally, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia; the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, Poland; and The Getty Center in Los Angeles, to name a few. When Ellsworth isn’t in the studio, she is loving the Arizona sky, taking walks toward vanishing points with her partner, Tania Katan.
photograph by Eric Fischl
Why did you create the Museum of Walking? What is it?
Museum of Walking is an artist-led, interdisciplinary project that considers walking an art practice. Walking already plays a surprisingly central role in contemporary art, social and cultural history, human health and sustainable lifestyles.
Museum of Walking is a culmination of all the work I have done as an individual artist. It exists outside of me.
Museum of Walking is a culmination of all the work I have done as an individual artist. It exists outside of me. This is a big idea that has the potential to engage millions of people in an art practice that feels like breathing, like being alive. These walks are proposing new ways for being in and of the world… together!
MoW is a dynamic educational and social resource committed to the act of walking as an agent for change and contemplation. Through workshops, guest speakers, and site-specific walks, MoW exists to foster relationships between people, land, action, and site. It is the only museum of its kind in the United States and was founded in one of the least walkable cities in the U.S., Phoenix.
My work focuses on making the invisible visible.
As an interdisciplinary artist, my work has been informed by a history of walking, of pioneers and colonizers who walked thousands of miles to Utah to claim a space not their own. My work focuses on making the invisible visible, on writing women back into history, sharing space rather than claiming it, and instead of supporting a narrative where the western US was won, excavating history and reimagining a west where queer pioneers roam freely.
MoW merges my individual art practice with a collective interest in walking as it relates to the historical, cultural and political sites that impact bodies.
Are people participating in MoW events visitors or are they part of the “display” ?
MoW is about participation and engagement.
MoW is turning the museum model inside out by decentralizing notions of art, beauty and history and refocusing on perceiving the art that abounds in landscapes, people, at borders, and through the soil. We are not a collecting institution. There is no membership fee. All of our efforts go toward providing new knowledge and embodied experiences, free of charge, to whomever decides to show up. We hold monthly artist led walks with 10 to 400 people.
What has been the best walk you have led so far and why ?
Ah, there are so many. Shortly after the presidential election of 2016, MoW hosted a full moon walk. Over 100 people showed up to a mountain preserve. Illuminated only by the moon, a triangle indicated the start of the walk. You could hear the crunch of feet rising and falling on the rocky ground as we walked in silence. Soon, the feet took on a collective crunch, more of a marching, an intensity that seemed to build with every step. Eventually, all steps slowed down as if there had been a collective catharsis. We showed up and explored what was possible, listening to the world around us and simply walking, one step at a time.
How can people find out about MoW events ?
MoW’s ability to impact cities across the globe is limitless.
Is MoW organic in a sense that it could spread all over the world and how do you see it growing ?
MoW’s ability to impact cities across the globe is limitless. The Museum of Walking believes in walking as an art practice because the future of museums exists beyond their walls.
In five years the Museum of Walking has three clear goals:
1. To create a scalable prototype of MoW.
2. Introduce an international large-scale walk, inviting participants around the globe to walk, in unison, on the same day, to explore diverse knowledges of land and Indigenous histories.
3. Leverage the culture of counting steps to move beyond the Fitbit.
Header image photograph by Alice Gao
Françoise Hartman is a freelance writer and translator. She lives in the Southwest.