May 27, 2022 - News

Crystal Bridges intern program gets $10M gift

Photo: Courtesy Crystal Bridges/Ironside Photography

The Alice L. Walton Foundation will provide a $10 million endowment gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to expand its internship program.

  • The program will emphasize racial and cultural diversity in the recruitment of students.

Why it matters: A 2015 study found that 28% of Association of Art Museum Directors museum staff members belonged to "historically underrepresented minorities." The same study found that 60% of museum staffers were women, but only 43% of directorships were held by women.

  • Increasing racial and cultural diversity in leadership roles within the arts will eventually lead to more inclusive representation in art collections and patrons.

Context: The museum has offered hands-on learning experiences to more than 100 students in residential internships since 2015 and several hundred non-residential internships since 2012.

Details: The money will allow the museum to add an intern coordinator who will focus solely on the program.

  • To recruit interns, the museum will work with Spelman College in Atlanta and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, which focus their art history programs on racial and cultural identities.

The coordinator will create an evaluation system to measure the impact of the program, monitor individual experience and prepare interns for opportunities in the field.

  • They will track the students' cultural careers for at least five years, a news release states.

Between the lines: Museum spokesperson KC Hurst told Axios via e-mail that of the art in its contemporary galleries, 48% of the pieces are by non-white artists and 53% by women.

  • The percentage varies in other galleries, she noted, "based on who was creating art that was preserved and made available for sale in centuries past.”

Four members of the museum's eight-person board of directors are women, including its chair, Olivia Walton. Two of the directors are Black.

  • More than a third of the museum's staff members self-identify as non-white people.

What they're saying: "Five years ago, we strengthened an already successful internship program to focus on hiring and nurturing leaders from diverse backgrounds. Today we recognize there is still work to do," Alice Walton, founder, board member, and chair emeritus of the museum said in a news release.

  • "I believe it's essential for museums to build an inclusive culture, and in order to do so it's imperative to educate and develop future arts leaders," Walton added.
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