BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Cyrstal Bridges Museum of American Art announced Thursday it has received a $10 million endowment gift from the Alice L. Walton Foundation that will benefit its internship program.
According to a news release, Crystal Bridges announced the gift is one of the largest museum endowments in the country dedicated to developing the next generation of arts leadership. The release says it will allow the museum to add “breadth, depth, and oversight to its nationally-recognized initiative, reconstituting its robust internship program as a resounding ‘Commitment to Future Arts Leaders.’”
Operating for more than a decade, the Bentonville art museum has housed many opportunities for students to expand their experience through hands-on learning on-site and more recently, at its satellite contemporary arts space, the Momentary.
“Five years ago, we strengthened an already successful internship program to focus on hiring and nurturing leaders from diverse backgrounds. Today we recognize there is still work to do,” says Alice Walton, founder, board member, and chair emeritus of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “I believe it’s essential for museums to build an inclusive culture, and in order to do so it’s imperative to educate and develop future arts leaders.”
Crystal Bridges also announced it is partnering with Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to recruit interns from populations currently underrepresented in arts leadership.
The museum says the potential for learning experiences across artistic disciplines increased significantly in 2020 with the opening of the Momentary, whose mission to present “contemporary visual, performing, and culinary arts” expands opportunities for interns to explore all manner of artistic expression.
At the Momentary, interns may receive training in theatrical stagecraft, music festival management, art fabrication, and sophisticated culinary production – cultural and educational experiences that hold tremendous appeal for a new generation of museum staff.
One aspect Crystal Bridges plans to use the endowment for to better educate its interns is adding an administrator focused “solely on the internship program and its impact.” With a dedicated coordinator, the museum says it will provide a more equitable experience and allow curators and other content experts to concentrate on student learning.
The intern coordinator will also reportedly install a rigorous evaluation system to continually measure the overall impact of the program, to monitor the quality of the individual experience, discover new aspects of museum practices, and prepare interns for additional coursework and employment opportunities in the field. Further, the intern coordinator will track students’ cultural careers for a minimum of five years following their time at Crystal Bridges.
“This generous gift embodies everything I’ve known Alice to care about as a museum leader and arts patron – access, diversity, and nurturing the next generation, a representative generation, of arts leaders,” says Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer at Crystal Bridges. “This gift asks Crystal Bridges to continually sharpen its focus on diverse student learners and helps to establish a new standard in the field.”