This evening, Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges’ founder and Chairwoman of the Museum’s Board of Directors, will be presented with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Medal. Each year, this prestigious award honors leaders in the field of American art. Past award recipients include John Baldessari, Eli Broad, Chuck Close, Paula Cooper, André Emmerich, Agnes Gund, Ellsworth Kelly and Joel Shapiro, and Cindy Sherman.
The following short video, excerpted from the full-length documentary film The Art of Crystal Bridges, was produced to accompany the presentation of the Archives of American Art Medal to Ms. Walton this evening. We hope you enjoy this short introduction to Alice Walton and her dream to bring to life Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
A long-time art lover and collector, Ms. Walton conceived the idea of creating a national art museum in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, so that people of the region would have ready access to great works of art. She planned to build the museum on a 120-acre stretch of natural Ozark forest that had belonged to her family for many years. The land had special meaning to Alice and her brothers, who had played together in these woods as children; and it was important to the family that the land’s natural character be maintained. Alice presented her idea to the Walton Family Foundation, who agreed to fund the project.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the first national museum dedicated to the work of American artists in more than a generation. By design, Crystal Bridges is a wholly remarkable museum: in its collection, which spans five centuries of American art; in its dramatic architecture; in its lush natural setting; and in its geographical location in the heart of the country, far from any coastal metropolis.
These elements alone make the Museum distinctive among its peers, but the spirit of Crystal Bridges runs deeper than these outward emblems. From its beginning, Crystal Bridges has been guided by certain key principles: the Museum offers the finest examples of American art available, and holds education at the very core of our mission, and strives to be a welcoming and inspirational place for everyone.
This last is one of the reasons it was essential that Crystal Bridges be located here, in Bentonville, Arkansas, surrounded by the beautiful Ozark landscape, where the citizens of our region—for whom most of the country’s finest museums are hundreds of miles away—can experience great works of art as part of their everyday lives, and where visitors from anywhere in the world can enjoy American art amid the beauty of the American landscape. At Crystal Bridges, we share a belief that art is at the center of what it means to be human. Art, like the beauty of our natural world, should be accessible to everyone.