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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces the Completion of Year One for the Windgate School Partnership Program

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the completion of “Year One” of the Windgate School Partnership Program. The project was the result of a $15 million gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation in 2017, which established a first-of-its-kind program with a Windgate Advisory Board that was charged with identifying issues facing schools and developing arts-based initiatives to improve student outcomes.

The Windgate School Partnership Program focuses on 17 schools throughout Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma as the subject of a 10-year longitudinal study led by Professor Jay Greene at the University of Arkansas. The program includes professional development for teachers, teaching artist residencies in the schools, and field trip experiences to Crystal Bridges for students from each school participating in the program to promote art as a support for social and emotional development and academic success.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Windgate Foundation, Crystal Bridges has the resources to effect real change across the educational landscape locally, regionally and nationally,” said Dr. Nile Blunt, head of school programs at Crystal Bridges.

“Crystal Bridges, by assembling an exemplary advisory board, along with the abilities of their outstanding educational staff, is uniquely positioned to explore the impact of exposure to the arts,” said Patricia Forgy, executive director, Windgate Foundation. “We feel the innovative program that has been developed will transform the experiences of students and benefit both their lives and the way they learn. We look forward to seeing continued good results from the program.”

The aim of the 10-year study is to understand if multiple art museum experiences can have a sustained effect on students over time. The inspiration was based on learnings from an earlier study that uncovered the impact from one field trip to the museum was significant in areas of critical thinking, recall, tolerance, empathy, and cultural interest, with the effect greatest in rural areas, high poverty schools, and minority students.

As part of the program and new study, many of the participants are from Title I schools in rural areas, where 1,000+ students have experienced three art-integration sessions and two field trip visits to Crystal Bridges, while 53 teachers have gone through three weeks of professional development facilitated by Trike Theatre to learn how to use arts-based curriculum in the classroom.

Last month, the Windgate Advisory Board met to discuss the “Year One” outcomes. It was determined that within the first year, the majority of participating teachers had requested reproductions of artworks discussed on the tours and were using them in their classrooms as part of new art-integration strategies for teaching different subject matters.

“Crystal Bridges is a special place and uniquely positioned to be on the forefront of innovative arts education practice through this generous investment by the Windgate Charitable Foundation,” Jane R. Best, Ph.D.  Windgate Advisory Board Chair and Former Direct of the Arts Education Partnership.

“Early evidence in this past year is pointing toward positive changes in our students’ abilities to interact independently as well as in group with content being taught using art integration strategies. Student desire to learn and show their learning through a variety of art methods was impressive,” said Beverly Workman, a teacher at Greenland Elementary School.  “Most of these students have never engaged with art like this, and we’re seeing signs of progress and really eager to see the success over time.”

Going into “Year Two,” the program will focus on continuing to support arts experiences, providing more opportunities for artmaking and arts-integration in learning practices, and giving teachers a voice in the creation of the curriculum early on.

The board is chaired by Dr. Jane Best, former Director of the Arts Education Partnership, and Blunt serves as the board administrator. The board includes:

  • Arthur Affleck, Vice President of Development at the American Alliance of Museums
  • Susan Chambers, former Executive Vice President for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • David Dik, National Executive Director of Young Audiences for Learning
  • Jean Hendrickson, former Executive Director for Oklahoma A+ Schools
  • Sarah Johnson, Chief Education Officer and Director of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall
  • Dr. Deborah Reeve, the Executive Director of the National Art Education Association
  • Mario Rossero, Senior Vice President for Education at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Sherman Whites, Director of Education Initiatives at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

About Crystal Bridges
The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed 4.3 million visitors, with no cost for admission. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from colonial to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 260,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and 5 miles of art and walking trails. For more information, visit  The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.