In 2012, a little event called the Internet Cat Video Festival, a casual free screening on the Walker's lawn, was scheduled. To the museum's surprise, the gathering drew over 10,000 people, including celebrity cats and journalists from around the world.
Now, four years later, the Walker Art Center is ready to focus on new projects — and there are many — as it announced this evening that it would be discontinuing the festival.
"The core of our mission is experimentation and bringing new artists and artistic forms to the community," says Rachel Joyce, assistant director of public relations. "We pushed the boundaries with cat videos for four years. The form as a whole hasn’t evolved much over the last few years. It's time for us to take what we learned and move on to making new experiences in our remodeled spaces and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden."
Over the past four years, the Walker's cat party has been been hosted by the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand and CHS Field in Lowertown, employing Will Braden to help curate user-submitted videos from filmmakers seeking to take home the Golden Kitty. His celebrity cat, Henri, bid farewell to the festival via YouTube:
While we'll certainly miss the festival, the folks at Walker Art Center certainly have a lot on their plates right now, with the museum construction underway plus major changes to the Sculpture Garden and surrounding campus scheduled for completion next year.
However, the brief but awesome festival will survive in historic artifacts, as the museum is donating bits of ephemera, including photos, promotional materials, planning documents, T-shirts, and other pieces to the Minnesota Historical Society, which will be archiving the collection.
“The Walker's ingenious Internet Cat Video Festival is a Minnesota original, a unique example of popular culture in our recent history,” states Lory Sutton, MNHS chief marketing officer via release. “The Cat Video Festival materials will join items in our collections ranging from Bob Dylan's 1960 Party Tape and Minnesota's 1849 Territorial Seal to a significant collection of beaded Ojibwe Bandolier bags and 500,000 printed works, including a copy of This Side of Paradise dedicated to MNHS by F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
So farewell, Internet Cat Film Festival. Your nine lives turned out to only be four, but viral cat videos will live on and thrive.