Walton Family Gives $120M to Start School of Art at UA

Walton Family Gives $120M to Start School of Art at UA
(University of Arkansas)

The University of Arkansas said Wednesday that the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation has given it $120 million to establish the School of Art.

The UA called the donation "the largest ever given to a U.S. university in support of or to establish a school of art."

"This gift creates the first and only school of art in the state of Arkansas, and will propel art education and research in the state forward while also providing unparalleled access and opportunity to students," the UA said in a news release.

"The gift will also help position the School of Art as a center of excellence in art education, art history, graphic design and studio art curriculum."

The UA said the school will be housed in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences. Development of the school will be phased in over a five-year period and will require approval by the UA's board of trustees, the state Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam M. Walton and the founder of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, said the School of Art "will shape a new generation of artists, historians, designers and teachers with a unique understanding of the hope art can bring to communities. The unparalleled access to meaningful American art will connect the heartland to the world." 

UA Chancellor Joseph E. Steinmetz said the school will emphasize American art and art of the Americas, complementing Crystal Bridges' mission.

"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," Steinmetz said. 

The UA said the money will go toward three main goals: supporting students through scholarships, travel grants and internship opportunities; funding partnerships with Crystal Bridges and community arts organizations; and expanding graduate programs and degrees in art history, art education and graphic design.

The money will also support the Fine Arts Library and the renovation of the historic Edward Durrell Stone-designed Fine Arts Center.

Named for J. William Fulbright, a former UA president and U.S. senator, the Fulbright College is the UA's largest, with 19 departments and 43 academic programs and research centers.

The nonprofit Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation was founded by the family of the late Sam Walton and Helen R. Walton.