Alice Walton Foundation gives $10 million to Crystal Bridges to expand internship program

Alice Walton photo by Ironside Photography / Courtesy of Crystal Bridges

The Alice L. Walton Foundation has donated $10 million to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in what is one of the largest museum endowments in the country dedicated to developing the next generation of arts leadership.

The funding will help expand the museum’s internship program, which has existed for over a decade and has become a top choice for talent in a competitive field, according to a press release.

“Five years ago, we strengthened an already successful internship program to focus on hiring and nurturing leaders from diverse backgrounds. Today we recognize there is still work to do,” said Alice Walton in a prepared statement. “I believe it’s essential for museums to build an inclusive culture, and in order to do so it’s imperative to educate and develop future arts leaders.”

The museum plans to partner with Spelman College in Atlanta and Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. to recruit interns from populations currently underrepresented in arts leadership. Officials said working with the two institutions, which focus their art history programs on racial and cultural identities, reflects the museum’s promise to build a diverse workforce while training the next generation of museum leaders.

The Walton donation will allow Crystal Bridges to add an administrator focused solely on the internship program and its impact. The hope is that with a dedicated coordinator, the museum will provide a more equitable experience and allow curators and other content experts to concentrate on student learning.

“This generous gift embodies everything I’ve known Alice to care about as a museum leader and arts patron – access, diversity, and nurturing the next generation, a representative generation, of arts leaders,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer at Crystal Bridges. “This gift asks Crystal Bridges to continually sharpen its focus on diverse student learners and helps to establish a new standard in the field.”

The intern coordinator will be tasked with installing an evaluation system to continually measure the overall impact of the program, to monitor the quality of the individuals’ experience, to discover new aspects of museum practices, and to prepare interns for additional coursework and employment opportunities in the field. The intern coordinator will also track students’ cultural careers for a minimum of five years following their time at Crystal Bridges, according to the release.