Walton group donates $120 million for UA School of Art

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A $120 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation will help create the University of Arkansas School of Art.

The gift is the largest ever given outright to any art program at a U.S. university in the history of American higher education, said Todd Shields, dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

“This gift creates the first and only school of art in the state of Arkansas, and will propel art education, research and creative activity in the state forward while also providing unparalleled access and opportunity to students,” Shields said in a statement released Wednesday.

The money will be used to: provide student scholarships, travel grants and internship opportunities; engage the region in outreach and public service through partnerships with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and other arts organizations; and to expand graduate programs and degree offerings in art history, art education and graphic design.

UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said the school will place a strong emphasis on American art and art of the Americas, which complements the mission of Crystal Bridges.

“The vision to create the School of Art could not have come to fruition without the cooperative, close and mutually beneficial relationship between the world-class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the university,” Steinmetz said. “With an emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaborations and signature outreach efforts with the museum, and a focus on student, faculty and staff diversity, the school will be uniquely positioned to develop programs to rival the top competitors in the field.”

The gift will also be used to expand the Fine Arts Library and to renovate the historic Fine Arts Center designed by Edward Durrell Stone.

The school will be housed within the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and will be phased in over a five-year period.