The Alice L. Walton Foundation has donated $10 million to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to expand and diversify its internship program, the museum announced Thursday.
The money will allow the museum in Bentonville to add an administrator focused solely on the internship program, which is partnering with Spelman College in Atlanta and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to recruit interns from populations that are underrepresented in arts leadership. The colleges focus their art history programs on racial and cultural identities, which "reflects the museum’s promise to build a diverse workforce while training the next generation of museum leaders," the museum said in a news release.
An evaluation system will be created to measure the impact of the program. Students will have their careers tracked for at least five years after their internship.
Walton, the museum's founder and former board chair, said the museum has worked for years to hire and develop leaders from diverse backgrounds but "we recognize there is still work to do."
"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," she said in the release.
Crystal Bridges offers internships for a range of students, from rising high school seniors to graduate students completing their Ph.D.s. In addition to working in a primary job area, all interns receive a comprehensive overview of museum departments, which helps provide a big-picture understanding of their career options.
Internship opportunities expanded in 2020 with the opening of the Momentary, the museum's contemporary art space. It offers training in theatrical stagecraft, music festival management, art fabrication and sophisticated culinary production.
"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,” Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer at Crystal Bridges, said in the release. "This gift asks Crystal Bridges to continually sharpen its focus on diverse student learners and helps to establish a new standard in the field."