In 2005, Alice Walton founded Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art as a non-profit charitable organization for all to enjoy. Alice’s interest in art began in her childhood when she discovered watercolors. She and her mother often painted with watercolors on family camping trips or on hikes in the Ozarks. As an adult, Alice began to collect watercolor paintings, and over time, that grew into a broader interest in art history and all types of American art.
Alice gifted her art collection to form the basis of the Crystal Bridges collection, and the Walton family gifted 120-acres of land in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas as the site for the museum. Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the museum opened to the public on November 11, 2011.
Crystal Bridges’ mission 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, it has welcomed 5.6 million visitors from around the globe, with no cost for admission. Alice serves as a board member and chair emeritus of the museum’s Board of Directors.
The museum’s art collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day, and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. 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 300,000 school children have participated in the school visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. More than five miles of walking and biking trails add to the experience of art, architecture, and nature.
In 2020, Crystal Bridges opened a satellite location, the Momentary, focusing on contemporary visual and performing arts. The Momentary also welcomes all with free admission.
Building on Crystal Bridges’ success in sharing masterworks of American art from its Arkansas location, Alice Walton established the Art Bridges Foundation in 2017 to expand access to American art across the nation, especially in rural and small to mid-sized communities where museums often struggle.
Art Bridges’ goal is to get art out of vaults and in front of people across the country. It has its own art collection, and it also partners with museums with vast collections to share art with institutions throughout the US. To date, Art Bridges has worked with 170 organizations in 46 states, funding 400+ projects that have reached more than 2.4 million people.
In 2017, Alice founded the Alice L. Walton Foundation, which works to enhance the quality of life for individuals through providing access to offerings that improve well-being and create diverse and inclusive communities. The Alice L. Walton Foundation focuses on efforts to expand and diversify educational opportunities that can help put a secure, fulfilling, and self-determined life in reach for more Americans.
Alice has supported major initiatives to increase teacher diversity, expand art programs at universities, and diversify museum leadership. Through this work, the foundation strives to deliver meaningful and lasting change to individuals and communities most in need.
Alice is a member of the Walton Family Foundation, which works in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in its home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.
Additionally, in 2017 Alice Walton spearheaded a family foundation gift that provided $120 million to establish a School of Art at the University of Arkansas, creating the first and only accredited, collegiate school of art in the state.
Alice Walton’s transformative experiences in the arts led to an interest in wellness, and how art, nature, and the spaces around us shape and improve our lives. In 2019, Alice established the Whole Health Institute, a non-profit organization focused on improving health and well-being for all. The Institute strives to create fundamental changes to the way communities, employers, government policies, and health systems work together to help individuals take charge of their health and live their fullest, most meaningful life.
Construction is currently underway to locate the Institute on the 120-acre Crystal Bridges campus, with access to its natural offerings as well as the museum.
In addition to the Institute, the formation of a new degree-granting non-profit Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences was recently announced, supporting Alice Walton’s broader vision for how the power of the arts, nature, well-designed spaces, and a whole health approach can affect wellbeing.
Recently, the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Cleveland Clinic announced a joint initiative to identify ways of providing access to Cleveland Clinic’s renowned specialty care services in Northwest Arkansas. The organizations are currently assessing specialty care needs in the region and developing recommendations for healthcare solutions to best meet those needs.
Alice Walton’s vision and philanthropic leadership has prompted numerous accolades. She is a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Medal, the John Cotton Dana Medal for Visionary Leadership in Museums, the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts, and the Getty Medal for contributions to the Arts and Humanities. She was recognized by TIME magazine in 2012 as one of the most influential people in the world, and was inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame in 2018.
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 DC. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity University and an honorary Doctor of Arts and Humane Letters from the University of Arkansas.