The Walton Family Pledges $120 Million to Establish the First University Art School in Arkansas

The University of Arkansas will soon boast the only art school in the state.

The University of Arkansas art school. Courtesy of the University of Arkansas.

The University of Arkansas will establish the first art school in the state thanks to an unprecedented $120 million donation from the Walton family. The gift is the largest ever to be pledged towards the establishment of an art school in the United States. The school is around a 30-minute drive from Bentonville, where the family’s business, Wal-Mart, is headquartered.

This gift continues the Waltons’ enormous investment in Arkansas’s cultural infrastructure. Billionaire Walmart heiress Alice Walton spent a whopping $1.2 billion on the endowment for Bentonville’s Moshe Safdie-designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in 2011.

The family’s latest donation, given through the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, will expand graduate programs and degrees in art history, art education, and graphic design, as well as financial aid. Funds from the donation will also be used to bolster the fine arts library and renovate the university’s fine arts center.

“The newly endowed School of Art will transform the university and region into an international hub for the study of art,” Joseph E. Steinmetz, the chancellor of the University of Arkansas, said in a statement. “The School of Art will also have an immediate, resounding positive effect on the culture of our entire state, and its imprint will be seen across the nation and beyond.”

The development of the new art school will be rolled out over a five-year period to accommodate approvals from the university’s board of trustees and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The school will be housed in the university’s J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

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