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The Museum of Walking steps outside the box

The museum is aiming to show attendees how special walking is


People participate in the Museum of Walking's second annual fundraising event at Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

Your parents will never forget the first time you did it, yet day after day, walking becomes almost as forgettable as breathing — it’s second nature, something that can be done with almost no conscious effort. 

The Museum of Walking (MoW) at ASU is striving to help us remember how special a thing walking truly is.

Angela Ellsworth, co-founder and director of the museum, said she created it to “start a conversation about walking and contemporary art.”

“The Museum of Walking is on the cutting edge of all these conversations that are budding up in different universities and institutions,” she said. “We are right on par with all these other places focusing on walking as an art practice.”

Ellsworth said walking is a part of her artistic process. She noted that in preparation for any of her artwork, there is a walk. 

“My creative juices start flowing when I am walking,” she said. “It’s a form of ideation.” 

Ellsworth said all types of thinkers for many years included walking in their practices from poets to philosophers to writers.

“(People) come from all different aspects of our culture,” she said, adding the project has helped to widen her audience.

She is particularly fond of how many more people she can reach with the MoW than with her own solo artwork, she said. 

Ellsworth said Arizona artist James Turrell “considers light a material,” and noted the MoW is doing just that with walking. 

“(Walking) is a very simple way of shifting how you see the world,” she said. "If you’re driving, you’re moving so quickly, you’re missing a lot.”

Grace O’Sullivan, an advisor to the MoW and the assistant vice president of Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships at ASU, said she went on one of the many walks the museum organizes and was fascinated by the atypical nature of the event and wanted to be part of it.

“After being on the walk and being so moved by it,” she said. “I knew I had to get involved in a more substantial way.”

O’Sullivan said the walks organized by the museum are a good opportunity to “connect with people, reconnect with nature and really disconnect from our busy lives.”

“The thought of using walking as a creative artform is very interesting to me,” she said, adding that walking is something that is almost invariably accessible to any individual on a daily basis.

Ron Broglio, an associate English professor at ASU and an advisor to the MoW, said he involved himself with the museum because he liked the thought of engaging with nature by walking. 

“We’re physical bodies in space, and we should be aware of our surroundings,”  said Broglio. “One of the really interesting tactics that Angela has set up for this museum is that it’s performative."

He said one of the museum’s goals is to have people start thinking about and looking at walking differently. He acknowledged that walking is a very simple and basic thing, yet people seem to forget that it is foundational. 

“To have a Museum of Walking here is to have us think about engaging with dwelling differently,” Broglio said. “In a culture that measures everything according to ordering and efficiency … to walk is to slow down and take a human pace rather than a machine pace.”

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