September 23, 2011; Source: Arkansas Business | Some philanthropic giving statistics are simply eye-popping. Arkansas Business recently reported that the Walton Family Foundation had been very generous in 2010 with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in the Wal-Mart headquarters town of Bentonville, Arkansas. Generosity in this case adds up to more than $1.2 billion, divided between an $800 million endowment whose income would support museum operations, art acquisitions, and future capital improvements, and an additional $403 million grant for artwork and general operating expenses.
This is an astounding single-year investment by any foundation, not to mention one whose major commitments had been educational reform and programs to improve mid-South economic conditions.
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Why more than a billion bucks for a museum that won’t even open until November 11? It’s no cheap proposition to display art property. The museum was designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie. Its collection of American art is said to include Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, the portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale, and works by the likes of Arshile Gorky and Andy Warhol, among others. In addition to the Family Foundation grants, Wal-Mart Inc. will pay for daily operations, allowing for free admission to the main collection.
The particular interest in this new museum is familial. The most famous promoter of the museum—and apparently the donor of some of the paintings—is Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Those of us who love museums and love American art will undoubtedly travel to Bentonville and make Crystal Bridges a first stop.—Rick Cohen