Crystal Bridges Awards First Don Tyson Prize

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced Wednesday (Sept. 21) that the Archives of American Art, maintained at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been selected as the first recipient of the Don Tyson Prize, a $200,000 award for outstanding achievement in American art.

The award, originally established as a part of the Tyson Scholars of American Art program created by the Tyson family and Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, recognizes significant achievements in the field of American art, according to a Crystal Bridges news release. A national jury of museum and academic art historians empaneled by Crystal Bridges selected the Archives of American Art for recognition, lauding the institution for advancing knowledge in the field of American art since its establishment in 1954.

“With more than 20 million items in its continually growing collections, the Archives is the world’s largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America,” John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, said in the release. “My father, Don, for whom the prize is named, was a big believer in education, American history, and the American spirit. This type of accolade for the work being done to further American art would have been very meaningful to him.”

“We’re grateful to the Tyson family and Tyson Foods for their support of the mission and vision of Crystal Bridges, and their commitment to advancing the understanding of American art,” Crystal Bridges board chair Alice Walton said. “I was honored to count Don Tyson as a friend, and the legacy now being established through the Tyson Scholars program and the prize bearing his name carries on the Tyson family’s significant tradition of philanthropy.”

In 2012, Crystal Bridges received a $5 million endowment from the Tyson family and Tyson Foods to establish the Tyson Scholars of American Art program and the Don Tyson Prize. Tyson Scholars is a research and residency program that helps promote the study and understanding of American art.

Tyson Scholars have access to the art and library collections of Crystal Bridges, as well as to the museum’s curatorial and research staff, plus opportunities to interact with the community through lectures, symposia, and collaborations.

Since its inception, the program has supported the work of 15 scholars, attracting museum and academic professionals in a variety of disciplines from across the world. 

The prize, recently endowed with an additional $5 million commitment from the Tyson family and Tyson Foods, Inc., was named in honor of the late Don Tyson, former chairman and CEO of Tyson Foods. The Tyson family’s interest in American art began with Don Tyson’s love of traditional American-Western art, which he began collecting in the 1960s. 

John Tyson is also an avid collector, and has significantly expanded and diversified what has now become the Tyson Foods corporate collection. He is also a member of Crystal Bridges’ board of directors.

Tyson and Walton will present the $200,000 prize to the Archives of American Art at an event to be held in Washington, D.C., on October 21. An award created by artist Troy Anderson, a bronze sculpture titled “Forged from the Earth”, will be presented to the Archives as well.

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