Philanthropist Alice Walton’s $40M gift aims to boost museum access nationwide

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,847 views 

Alice Walton

Walmart heiress and philanthropist Alice Walton is donating grants totaling $40 million to 64 museums throughout the country. The grants range from $56,000 to more than $2 million, and they are intended to help attract first-time museum visitors. The funding will reduce admission costs and fund programming, marketing, outreach and additional efforts that reduce barriers to access.

Walton’s gift is through the Bentonville nonprofit Art Bridges Foundation, Walton’s endeavor to expand access to American art. Art Bridges chose recipients by looking at their annual operating expenses and admission costs and will make the funds available over the next three years beginning in January 2024

The pilot program is called “Access for All.” The link includes a list of museums that will receive funding.

In a recent interview with NPR, Walton said the impetus for the initiative was the pandemic’s impact on museums and the general public.

“I think that there are a lot of repercussions in terms of mental health and stability for people coming out of the pandemic,” Walton told NPR. “I really see this as a crucial point in time where we all need to figure out everything we can do to create that access.”

Many museums have struggled to regain their pre-pandemic attendance figures, with a recent survey from the American Alliance of Museums finding that visitor numbers are still down about 30% at two-thirds of museums since 2019.

Walton, the only daughter of Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton, is the founder of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. It opened in November 2011 and has welcomed approximately 11 million visitors, with no admission cost.