Walker is the co-curator of Not Visible to the Naked Eye: Inside a Senufo Helmet Mask. In collaboration with the conservation department and radiologists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the exhibition provides an in-depth look at the components of the ceremonial mask in the DMA’s collection. She also curated the 2019 focus exhibition Wearable Raffia from Africa, displaying mostly works from the DMA’s collection of African garments.
Walker was the organizing curator of the 2018 exhibition The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana, the first exhibition dedicated to the royal regalia of the Asante people in nearly 30 years that featured over 200 stunning objects. She served as organizing curator for the popular African Masks: The Art of Disguise (2010), an exhibition of 70 works from the DMA’s collections and important loans from museum and private collections, and African Headwear: Beyond Fashion (2011), which showcased 50 works celebrating the artistry and history of African headwear. Walker also curated Variations on a Theme: Three Olumeye by Olowe of Ise, a revelatory 2005 focus exhibition that refuted the idea that African art is anonymous and that tradition-based artists do not innovate or challenge convention, and published an exhibition brochure under the same title. In 2004, she served as the liaison curator for two traveling exhibitions, The Art of Romare Bearden (organized by Ruth Fine and the National Gallery of Art) and Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art.
Before joining the DMA, Walker was director of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, from January 1997 until June 2002 and previously served in curatorial positions since 1981. Prior to that appointment, she was director of the University Museums, Illinois State University at Normal, and curator of its ethnographic art collection. She was also curator of collections for the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, in Nigeria from 1973 to 1975.
In 1970, Walker was the registrar of the Federal Department of Antiquities, Nigerian National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, and from 1969 to 1970 she was coordinator of the University Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From 1968 to 1969 she served as registrar of the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. In addition to museum work, Walker has taught African art at the University of Massachusetts, Indiana University, Illinois State University, and the University of Maryland.
Before earning her graduate degrees from the IU College of Arts and Sciences, Walker graduated with high honors from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, where she specialized in art education. In 1986 she was honored as the “Twenty Year Student” of Hampton’s Class of 1966. In 1965, she was the recipient of a scholarship for study at the Université of Poitiers, France. Nominated by Hampton University in 1977, she was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2002, Walker was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of African American Museums.
In 1999, she served as a United States Information Agency/Department of State American Cultural Specialist in Nigeria, where she conducted workshops on museum administration. Walker is a member of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association and has also served on its board. In addition, she’s served on the Visual Arts and Crafts Advisory Panel of the Washington, D.C., Commission on the Arts and as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Walker has served on the Public Art Committee for the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.