Alice Walton forms Art Bridges foundation, seeks to increase access to American art

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 319 views 

This Robert Gober untitled piece is part of the Art Bridges collection.

Philanthropist Alice Walton has formed Art Bridges, a nonprofit foundation with a mission to expand access to American artworks, the foundation announced Wednesday (Sept. 13).

“Collaborating with museums and institutions of all sizes and in all regions of the country, Art Bridges will help create and fund exhibitions, bringing together art from museums, private collections, foundations and a collection established as a part of Art Bridges,” the foundation noted.

One way the Art Bridges foundation plans to accomplish this is by connecting museums of all sizes, borrowing stored artworks from extensive collections unable to be fully displayed and exhibiting them at small- and mid-sized museums seeking to add to their offerings, according to the foundation.

“Our country’s significant works of art should be available for all to see and enjoy,” Walton, also founder and board chair of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, said in the press release. “Outstanding artworks are in museum vaults and private collections. Let’s make that art available to everyone and provide a way to experience these cultural treasures.”

The exhibitions supported by Art Bridges will range from single-object loans to fully curated exhibitions. The development of “in-depth educational and interpretive materials” and programming will also be part of Art Bridges’ work, according to the foundation.

“We want to support partner institutions in expanding and deepening their connection with audiences. This is about engaging communities through providing access and learning opportunities, as well as allowing for experimentation in exhibition development. We’ve seen the transformative effect it can have on individuals and communities,” Walton said, adding more than 3 million people have visited Crystal Bridges since its opening in November 2011.

Art Bridges is contracting with Crystal Bridges for administrative, collection care, education/outreach and curatorial work.

“Sharing and celebrating American art is the essence of our museum’s mission, and we are pleased to support Art Bridges in its efforts to increase accessibility to outstanding works of art,” Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges’ Executive Director and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, said in the release.

Several museums have now borrowed from the Art Bridges collection. Those institutions include the Amarillo Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Blanton Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of Art, The Old Jail Art Center, Portland Museum of Art, Tyler Museum of Art and Yellowstone Art Museum.

Art Bridges is also supporting programs for John Sloan’s “Bleecker Street,” now on display at Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, N.Y., and Gilbert Stuart’s “William Smith,” on loan to Juniata College Museum of Art in Huntington, Pa., according to the foundation.

The nonprofit has also partnered with the American Federation of Arts of New York City, an organization that develops traveling art exhibitions and education programs globally, to bring a collection with the working title “Selections from The Studio Museum in Harlem” to six museums throughout the U.S.: the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, and Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Mass.

Art Bridges is also working with the Terra Foundation for American Art of Chicago to create a six-year effort intended to develop and nurture collection-sharing networks, according to Art Bridges.

“Terra Art Bridges will provide funding to a diverse array of institutions across the U.S. to create new partnerships and facilitate new thinking about collaborative exhibition development, collection-sharing and care, and professional development that benefits participating museums and the audiences they serve,” the Art Bridges foundation stated.

This initiative aligns with Terra Foundation’s stated mission “to foster exploration, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts of the U.S. for national and international audiences.”

Other museums and galleries that “are exploring how they can share exhibitions, artworks and expertise with museums across the country through partnerships with Art Bridges,” according to the foundation, are Brooklyn Museum, Fisk University Galleries, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Yale Museums & Galleries.

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