Walton Foundation to Give Arkansas Arts Center $1 Million

Arkansas Arts Center Executive Director Todd Herman said Monday that the center will receive a $1 million donation from The Walton Family Foundation to be distributed over the next 10 years.

Herman made the announcement at the center's annual meeting.

"On behalf of my family members, I have the great pleasure of informing you of plans for a $1 million investment in the Arkansas Arts Center by the Walton Family Foundation over the next 10 years," foundation board member Alice Walton said in a letter to the center.

Herman called the donation "significant."

"I greatly admire the Walton family's broad and inclusive thinking when it comes to the arts in Arkansas," he said. "We are partners in the belief that art changes lives, and I am glad that they trust our commitment to that mission through this pledge of support."

Walton, the daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, is the founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, which opened last year. In April, she was named to Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" list for her to work establishing the museum.

The donation comes as the Arts Center continues to recover from a series of financial difficulties stemming, in part, from the money-losing World of the Pharaohs exhibit. In August 2011, Warren Stephens, chairman of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, said the foundation had raised $4 million for the Arts Center, eliminating the center's troublesome debt.

The gifts included two challenge gifts of $1 million each made by two donors who wished to remain anonymous, Stephens said.

The Rest of Walton's Letter to the Arts Center

As a lifelong Arkansan, I value the role of visual and performing arts in communities across our state, and I respect the tough decisions that the board of the Arkansas Arts Center has made to sustain this institution during tough economic times. I also applaud the continued commitment of the City of Little Rock to provide exposure to the arts to all residents of our state.

A great cultural institution can inspire an entire community, but is not made by donors alone. Active patrons and volunteers are the lifeblood of a thriving organization. My hope is that our family's gift serves as a catalyst, inspiring additional support from both public and private entities.  A vibrant arts community in Central Arkansas has ripple effects throughout the state.

On behalf of the Walton Family Foundation, I applaud the leadership of the Arkansas Arts Center during a difficult season and look forward to the continued role this institution will play in making the arts a real part of the lives of so many Arkansans.