The Walton Family Foundation said Wednesday (Dec. 11) its Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program will a support new collaborative playscape at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and a new urban park near Southwest 8th and I streets.
“The Design Excellence Program is transforming how we use, experience and interact with public buildings and spaces,” Karen Minkel, Home Region Program director for the Walton Family Foundation, said in a statement. “These parks will build on the success of the program’s already completed projects by reimagining the possibilities of the region’s green spaces.”
This year, the Design Excellence Program will provide a grant for Convergence, a collaborative playscape between Crystal Bridges and the Scott Family Amazeum. Once completed, the outdoor space between the two museums will be one cohesive environment of learning and play for visitors of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
The foundation will also provide a grant to the city of Bentonville to support the recently announced destination park on nearly 100 acres at Southwest 8th and I streets. Its design will align with Play Bentonville 2025, the master plan that highlighted the need for additional passive recreation spaces, public gathering areas, green spaces and trails to the west of Walton Boulevard, where the sity reports 58% of residents live.
Both projects are part of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to expand access to outdoor offerings in Northwest Arkansas. According to the foundation’s latest Quality of Life Survey, parks are currently the most-used amenities in the region, with 81% of residents reporting accessing a park in the last 12 months.
The Design Excellence Program was created in 2015 to promote the highest level of design in the development of future public buildings and spaces in Benton and Washington counties. It selects projects based on four key principles: a commitment to strengthening public life; elevating standards of sustainability and resilience; celebrating local cultures and place; and building regional capacity.
With the addition of the parks, the program is now supporting 13 projects across the region’s five largest cities. To date, it has helped municipalities and nonprofits complete the Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center in Bentonville, Memorial Park in Siloam Springs, Rogers Historical Museum, Thaden School’s campus in Bentonville and TheatreSquared in Fayetteville.