Alice L. Walton, Chairwoman of the Board
Alice Walton is a committed patron of the arts and philanthropist. She led the Walton Family Foundation’s founding of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and serves as chairwoman of the museum’s Board of Directors. She is a board member of the Walton Family Foundation.
The establishment of the museum and its impact within the region has prompted numerous accolades for Walton. She is a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Medal, the American Federation of Arts Cultural Leadership Award, the John Cotton Dana Medal for Visionary Leadership in Museums, and the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts for her significant philanthropic contributions. She was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.
Walton has remained committed to improving the quality of life in her home state. She was the first chairperson and driving force behind the Northwest Arkansas Council. This organization played a major role in securing the development of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, improving transportation infrastructure throughout the region. She also established Camp War Eagle, which offers Northwest Arkansas children of differing socio-economic backgrounds an exceptional summer camp experience.
Walton began her career in finance and later founded Llama Company, an investment bank. She has served as a member of the board of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Trustees' Council of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity University and an honorary Doctor of Arts and Humane Letters from the University of Arkansas.
Walton is the daughter of Helen Walton and Walmart founder Sam Walton.
Rod Bigelow, Executive Director
Rod Bigelow has served as executive director of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art since 2013, guiding all facets of the museum’s development and reflecting his more than 20 years of experience in management of arts and cultural institutions. He joined Crystal Bridges in 2010, serving as the deputy director of operations and administration, focusing on organizational and policy development as well as construction activities leading up to the museum’s opening in November, 2011. In that role, he led the Crystal Bridges’ strategic planning process, resulting in a comprehensive plan guiding the museum’s focus.
During Bigelow’s tenure at Crystal Bridges, the museum has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors. Prior to joining Crystal Bridges, Bigelow was chief operating officer at the Toledo Museum of Art, where he implemented a federal grant program to increase funding for the museum’s sustainability projects, initiated collaboration with local non-profit organizations, and coordinated planning and pre-construction activities for a new contemporary gallery space. He was appointed interim executive director at the Toledo Museum of Art in 2009.
Bigelow previously served as director of administrative and financial services at The Art Institute of Seattle, where he oversaw financial aid, accounting, facilities, and retail activities. Bigelow also spent eight years with the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington, serving initially as chief financial officer and later as interim executive director.
He holds a master’s in business administration degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. In 2012, he completed the Museum Leadership Institute sponsored by the Getty and Claremont Graduate University. He has served on the board of directors of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma and currently serves as a director of Downtown Bentonville, Inc.
Sandra Keiser Edwards, Deputy Director
Sandra (Sandy) Keiser Edwards career exemplifies her deep commitment to improving quality of life through arts and education. She has served as deputy director for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art since 2007, playing a vital role in the conception, planning, building, and opening of the museum. She was instrumental in the establishment of endowments for the museum’s operations, acquisitions, and capital improvements, as well as a grant that provides free admission to the museum. Edwards has been and continues to be a guiding force in establishing this cultural destination, creating and growing connections to bring increased tourism to the area, as well as offering the region’s residents unparalleled arts, cultural, and educational experiences.
Prior to Crystal Bridges, Edwards and her late husband, Clay, served for nine years as the management team for University of Arkansas’ development program directing the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century.
Edwards previous work has emphasized art and education as well. She served as director of development for outreach and cooperative extension at the Pennsylvania State University. She created the first comprehensive advancement program in the field of continuing and distance education at a university, where she held a post from 1992 to 1998. She was part of the management team that created Penn State’s World Campus, a virtual university for students at a distance from the physical location. Prior to her involvement in university development, she was recognized nationally for her work in the fields of major concert promotion, and performing arts.
As an advocate of access to quality education, Edwards served as a trustee on the board of her alma mater, Lenoir Rhyne College; received the Penn State’s Outreach Pioneer Award for Distance Education; was named honorary alumna of the University of Arkansas; and received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and Distinguished Alumna Award from Western Illinois University where she received a master’s degree.
Margaret C. Conrads, Ph.D., Director of Curatorial Affairs
Margaret (Margi) Conrads serves as director of curatorial affairs for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, providing strategic vision for design and development of the collection and exhibitions. She leads the curatorial, collection management, and library and archives teams.
Prior to Crystal Bridges, Conrads served as deputy director of art and research at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, where she managed the curatorial, conservation, exhibitions, library and archives departments, and design and installation divisions. Previously, Conrads spent 20 years at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., where she was the Samuel Sosland senior curator of American art.
While at the Nelson-Atkins, Conrads was the editor and primary author of The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: American Paintings to 1945. She contributed select essays for Crystal Bridges’ inaugural collection catalog, Celebrating the American Spirit, and has published writings on key American artists in the Crystal Bridges’ collection, including Winslow Homer and George Caleb Bingham, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Cole, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, and Andrew Wyeth, among others.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in art history from Connecticut College in New London, Conn., master’s degree in art history from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and Ph.D. in art history at City University of New York, N.Y., and is a graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute.
Conrads’ doctorate concentration was American art to 1945, and she has received international recognition for the exhibition and catalog, Winslow Homer and the Critics: Forging a National Art in the 1870s (Princeton University Press). She has organized national and international touring exhibitions, collaborating with a variety of institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the High Museum of Art.