Tucked away on the second floor of ASU's Tower Center Building is a small room with AstroTurf floors and a shiny new glass door. If you peek in, you will see a quote on the wall. It comes from Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking and reads: "Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."
Welcome to the Museum of Walking.
This 120-square-foot space at ASU is the physical manifestation of an ongoing artistic and intellectual collaboration between founders Angela Ellsworth and Steven Yazzie. Ellsworth says the idea of a Museum of Walking first came up years ago in a conversation with Bruce W. Ferguson, who curated the exhibition "Walking and Thinking and Walking" at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark in 1996.
"I kept thinking about what a museum of walking would be, what would it look like," Ellsworth says. In December 2013, she joined forces with Yazzie to finally bring these kinds of questions to bear.
The Museum of Walking will be a place for exploring the ways that walking aids the creative process; there will be exhibitions, seminars, workshops, and guest speakers. The museum's website describes it as "an educational resource center committed to the advancement of walking as an art practice."
Walking is not a new subject for either of these established artists. Thematically, walking is connected to the pioneering Mormon history that permeates much of Ellsworth's work. But she says walking plays a role in all of the different forms her work takes, from performance pieces to drawings. A love for the process of walking and creating led her to co-found a workshop in Italy, called Topography of Memory, that focuses on using drawing, writing, and walking to explore personal histories.
Yazzie also explores history and its connectedness to the land in his artwork. As part of the Indigenous Tours Project, a socially engaged art endeavor, Yazzie takes tours with indigenous community members, building connections with people and recontextualizing a relationship to place. Other projects like Drawing and Driving deal with the speed of contemporary life, which is a big part of what walking is all about: the desire to slow things down.
Stanford University recently released a study showing that walking boosts creativity. When the Chronicle covered the study earlier this week, the author used the same Solnit quote that's featured so prominently in the Museum of Walking. While this crossover is merely coincidental, the growing buzz around walking makes it a particularly auspicious time for the museum to open its doors.
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While they hope that the space can host small exhibitions by guest curators, Yazzie and Ellsworth also talked about having workshops or lectures outside of the physical museum. "We would love for this to be a hub or a portal for larger access," says Yazzie. As part of this goal, the museum does have a growing collection of materials about walking, and they are bringing on Kathryn Wood, a librarian strategist, to help determine how best to deal with this collection of information.
Officially, the Museum of Walking will open in the fall, but both Ellsworth and Yazzie stressed that museum is itinerant, not confined by time or space. "It's important to us that we could be able to be active in another location," says Yazzie. This is physically necessitated by the size and placement of the museum currently; the Tower Center Building is not generally open to the public, and the museum space itself is connected to Ellworth's office, which remains locked when she's away. But none of this is really a huge problem for a museum that does not intend to function like a regular museum.
To find out more about the Museum of Walking, visit www.museumofwalking.org.