UPDATE: Walton Foundation Sets Up $800 Million Endowment for Crystal Bridges

by Serenah McKay  on Wednesday, May. 4, 2011 4:16 pm  

Crystal Bridges' recently acquired 47-foot sculpture that stands near the building?s main entrance. The stainless steel tree-like form, called "Yield," was created by American artist Roxy Paine. (Photo by Serenah McKay)

An $800 million endowment from the Walton Family Foundation will help fund Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art "in perpetuity," museum officials said Wednesday.

The museum, the brainchild of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. heiress Alice Walton, is under construction in Bentonville and scheduled to open Nov. 11. It is expected to exhibit one of the finest collections of American art in the world.

Museum Executive Director Don Bacigalupi said $350 million of the endowment, announced at a press event at the museum, will be allocated for operating expenses, which are projected to run about $16 million annually. A fund for art acquisitions will receive $325 million, and the remaining $125 million be set aside for upkeep of the 201,000-SF structure as it ages.

The endowment "means Crystal Bridges will be on a sound financial footing for generations to come," Bacigalupi said.

The museum released this statement from Alice Walton on behalf of the Walton Family Foundation:

"We seek thoughtful, strategic investments that create and strengthen partnerships with our grantees and the communities they serve. By investing in the endowment of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, my family has laid a foundation on which this institution can continue to grow as a resource for our community, state and nation.

"This endowment investment is core to the Foundation’s goal of further enhancing the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas and enabling the region to continue to flourish.”

Construction costs for the project are being entirely funded by the Walton family and the Walton Family Foundation, Bacigalupi said. He wouldn't say what the total cost would be because the museum is still under construction, and added that he didn’t know if the final figure will ever be released.

Bacigalupi said the museum is expected to draw between 150,000 and 300,000 visitors in its first year, though he stressed these are only projected figures.

"We are prepared for fewer visitors, and for more visitors," he said.

The museum now employs about 75 people, he said. Another 40 to 50 will be hired before the opening date, and more will be added after that.

And 800 volunteers have already signed on, which Bacigalupi said is extraordinary considering the museum hasn’t opened yet.

Also Wednesday, the museum revealed a recently acquired 47-foot sculpture that stands near the building’s main entrance. The stainless steel tree-like form, called "Yield," was created by American artist Roxy Paine.

Area leaders have predicted Crystal Bridges will be a major economic draw for Arkansas when it opens. 

It has already spurred development by 21c Museum Hotels, which plans to open a 130-room property on the northeast corner of Bentonville's town square. The hotel, which also will feature more than 12,000 SF of exhibition, meeting and event space - as well as a 9,000-SF bar and restaurant - will be within walking distance of both Crystal Bridges and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. headquarters. 

More on Crystal Bridges

Slideshow: In September, InArkansas.com posted photos of construction along with a sample of the new art acquired by the museum.




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