“Ingredients for a Fulfilling Life.” How Alice Walton’s Philanthropy Develops – Inside Philanthropy | Candle Made Easy

Alice Walton, the only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in 2005 with a mission to “welcome everyone to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that blends the power of art with the beauty of… nature united”.

The museum opened its doors in 2011, and over the past decade, the richest woman in the world has grown into one of America’s foremost arts philanthropists, in areas ranging from arts education, promoting Americans’ access to world-class art, and building a pipeline of diverse leaders that area. She has also expanded her presence in the health and wellness space in recent years, promoting a holistic approach to care and breaking down barriers to entry.

Last November, Crystal Bridges announced that Olivia Walton, who is married to Alice’s nephew Tom, would replace Alice as chair of the museum and move to the position of board member. Walton explained her decision, saying: “In recent years, I have founded new organizations focused on the arts and health and well-being, and I want to focus more on my responsibilities as CEO at these companies.”

That doesn’t mean Walton’s philanthropy is slowing down. In May, Crystal Bridges announced a $10 million gift from the Alice Walton Foundation to create an endowment dedicated to developing the next generation of arts guides in the museum space, indicating Walton’s continued focus on the museum founded by her and the promotion of various talents. Factor in the fact that a spate of new organizations and partnerships is emerging, and it seems that 72-year-old Walton, whose net worth is just under $60 billion, is only just scratching the surface of her philanthropic ambitions. And everyone is united by a similar impulse, as she recently informed me by e-mail.

“Education, arts and culture, health and well-being, community are all important ingredients for a fulfilling life,” Walton said. “The organizations I’ve founded are focused on providing access to these elements, especially for communities that don’t have access. When the work we do helps people feel connected, that they belong, that they are valued and cared for as a whole person, then we achieve our goal.”

Increasing diversity in America’s museums

Philanthropists are often influenced by other philanthropists, which is one way funders can have outsized influence at the forefront of certain issues. Walton, for example, attributed her interest in supporting diversity in museums to the Mellon Foundation’s extensive work on the issue and said in reading the funder’s studies, “I felt I could play a role in diversity.” in this area as a whole through the arts organizations that I have founded.”

Crystal Bridges started a college internship program that works with universities across the country, including several historically black colleges and universities such as Fisk and Spelman College. The museum also introduced a high school internship program with students from the Arkansas Delta, a region that struggles to offer a wide range of career opportunities.

“With both programs, our goal is to help students explore and experience a variety of museum roles so they can see if a career in this field is a good fit for them,” Walton said. Both programs have also proven successful, so the next logical step, which came in the form of her foundation’s $10 million pledge, was to “ensure growth and long-term sustainability.”

Similarly, the Art Bridges Foundation, which Walton established in 2017 to expand access to American art across the country, offers the Arts Bridges Fellows Program, which allows participants from historically underrepresented groups to participate on a three-year fellowship with the museum’s partners participate in the foundation.

Through her foundation, Walton has also partnered with the Ford Foundation and other organizations to address diversity in museum leadership and provide funding nationally. “Ultimately, the future of museums depends on their ability to stay relevant and serve their communities,” Walton said. “This will not happen if the museum staff and leadership do not reflect the diversity of our country.”

“You have to take care of your community”

One of the key takeaways from IP’s white paper on the state of giving in the fine arts was the interest of funders in supporting community engagement. It’s one of those areas that’s hard to pin down with absolute accuracy, because “engagement” is a somewhat relative term.

Since opening, Crystal Bridges has welcomed 5.6 million visitors and nearly doubled its art collection to over 3,500 items with a special focus on works by historically underrepresented artists. Crystal Bridges has presented more than 80 exhibitions, some of which have toured across the country, and hosted over 300,000 school children on field trips as part of the Walker School Tour Program, which is completely free to all schools.

In other words, Walton has obviously been thinking about engagement for a long time, so I was curious to hear her thoughts on the subject.

“Crystal Bridges was founded with a mission to welcome everyone to experience the arts,” she said. “To fulfill that mission, people need to feel like they belong, that this is a place for them, and then want to come back.” For Walton, creating that “sense of belonging” requires that the museum’s leadership be attuned to the communities who she serves. It means curating innovative exhibitions to appeal to art lovers from around the world, offering activities for families who live nearby, and giving visitors the chance to hike a nearby trail or see a musical performance.

“I could go on endlessly about the communities we’ve identified and the programs we’ve devised to welcome them — from day camps for neurodiverse youth to creative connections for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Walton said. “The most important thing from what we’ve learned is that you need to be mindful of your community, who you serve and who you choose to serve, and what you offer to meet their needs.”

Last April, Crystal Bridges announced a 100,000 square foot expansion that will increase the size of the current building by 50%. “In these new spaces, we will have galleries to further showcase Native American art and crafts,” Walton said, “plus more space for school field trips, educational and outreach initiatives, cultural programs and community events.”

Provide “support and encouragement”.

Walton exports these engagement lessons nationally through the Art Bridges Foundation, which provides museums with strategic support and funding to help leaders better connect with their communities. “It was so rewarding to see the innovative programs they have created,” she said.

Walton noted that a partner institution, the Missoula Art Museum in Montana, has developed personal relationships with tribal communities across the state and increased access to the work of contemporary Indigenous artists. Another, the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania, complemented an exhibition of American art and design with a quilting and oral history project, which hosted a series of artist-taught quilting circles on-site and virtually. “Most museums have a desire to engage more deeply with communities, and many just need a little support and encouragement to do so,” Walton said.

Increased focus on health and wellness

Walton established the Alice L. Walton Foundation in 2017 to focus on increasing access to the arts, improving educational outcomes, improving health and well-being, and advancing economic opportunity. Recent work in education has focused on expanding the pipeline of highly qualified, diverse educators and supporting the development of arts education and arts inclusion programs.

Walton’s interest in improving health outcomes has grown in recent years as the pandemic has underscored deep-rooted inequalities throughout the health system. She is particularly drawn to what she calls a “holistic approach to healthcare with a focus on physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.” Three years ago, she founded the Whole Health Institute to advance this concept by working with health systems, employers and communities to build and expand holistic approaches to care.

In addition, the Foundation founded the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine, a four-year medical degree program that combines conventional medicine with holistic principles. In late June, the foundation announced the design and its location adjacent to the Crystal Bridges campus to ensure that “art and nature are incorporated into holistic care of the human being,” Walton said. The school plans to welcome its inaugural class in 2025.

The foundation has also partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and the Washington Regional Medical System in Northwest Arkansas to support the growth of health services in their region. “As with most of our work, this partnership is all about access,” said Walton. “In this case, we are ensuring that residents in our region have access to world-class health services, with an increased focus on holistic health principles.”

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