Walton Family donates $800 million to Crystal Bridges Museum

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 152 views 

The Walton Family Foundation announced Wednesday (May 4) its support of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art with three endowments totaling $800 million.

“We seek thoughtful, strategic investments that create and strengthen partnerships with our grantees and the communities they serve. By investing in the endowment of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, my family has laid a foundation on which this institution can continue to grow as a resource for our community, state and nation,” Alice L. Walton, member, Walton Family Foundation Board of Directors, said in the statement. “This endowment investment is core to the Foundation’s goal of further enhancing the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas and enabling the region to continue to flourish.”

The more than $50 million art museum is scheduled to open Nov. 11, 2011, and is funded primarily by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores founders Helen and Sam Walton. It is estimated that 250,000 people a year will visit the museum.

According to the Crystal Bridges website, the more than 120-acre park and facility “is envisioned as a premier national art institution dedicated to American art and artists, learning and community gatherings.”

The buildings will include 201,000 square feet of gallery, library, meeting, and office space, a 300-seat indoor auditorium, areas for outdoor concerts and public events, gallery rooms suitable for large receptions, as well as sculpture gardens and walking trails.

The museum is expected to house a permanent collection of works from American artists, galleries for Native American and regional art, sculptures, and traveling exhibitions from other public and private collections.

Endowments announced Wednesday will support annual museum operations, ongoing art acquisitions and capital investments.

The largest endowment of $350 million will help fund an estimated $16 million to $20 million annual operating budget. The estimated annual budget places Crystal Bridges “in the company of institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum,” noted the Museum’s statement.

The endowment for acquisitions totals $325 million, and will support annual purchases and “accumulate a fund balance to prepare for periodic major acquisitions.”
The third endowment of $125 million is for capital improvements. Museum officials said the endowment will be treated as a “rainy day fund.”

“We are in the fortunate position of having a founding donor family that understands the need for stability and sustainability going forward, and therefore has worked with us to create the base endowments upon which we will build and grow,” Crystal Bridges Executive Director Don Bacigalupi said in the statement. “These extraordinary gifts mean we are now able to turn to our community with confidence when we ask for its participation and involvement – confidence that we are here for the duration and that we will be a force in this region and in the field of museums and art history for generations to come.”

Museum officials said the endowments will be supplemented with other donor contributions, gifts, memberships and earned income.