Empowered Female Museum Founders

Hello everyone! This week I will be delving into the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art  in Bentonville, Arkansas and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, New York. Both museums were founded by women who had a mission of providing their patrons with art from the United States. The Whitney Museum of American Art prides itself on celebrating emerging artists of the 20th and 21st century whose artwork helps to attract many domestic patrons as well as international ones. The art work from these artists are composed in contemporary styles. The Crystal Bridges Museum celebrates nature and the patrons’ connection to the world around them with works from the past five centuries.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was founded in 2005 by Alice Walton in Bentonville, Arkansas, and officially opened to the public in 2011. Walton is an art patron, who serves as a chairwoman on the Crystal Bridges Museum Board of Directors and board member of the Walton Family Foundation. A prominent figure in the art world, she also serves on the boards of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Walton is so committed to improving the quality of life in her home state of Arkansas that she also helped establish the Northwest Arkansas Council. Walton is the daughter of wealthy businessman Sam Walton, who is the founder of Walmart. However, she did grow up with humble beginnings like her father, who owned and operated a variety shop in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton’s upbringing aided in the type of demographic and vision she would put forth in the establishment of the Crystal Bridges Museum. Walton is dedicated to serving the local rural community of Bentonville and its surrounding areas with artwork that connects patrons to the natural world around them. 

Alice Walton wins 2020 Getty Medal - Arkansas Times
Home - Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

On the other hand, there is the Whitney Museum of American Art which was founded in 1930 and officially opened its doors in 1931 on west Eighth Street near Fifth Avenue in New York City, New York. Its founder was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the great granddaughter of American businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt, who earned his wealth in the railroad industry. Both Walton and Whitney came from wealthy families that benefited from their positions in growing industries. Whitney was also the wife of Harry Payne Whitney, a wealthy banker with family money from the oil industry. She was raised in New York City and eventually worked in the city as an emerging art collector and sculptor. The collection she was acquiring consisted of work from American, international and new up and coming artists. Today, the museum’s  collection continues to reflect the type of demographic Whitney sought out to attract. In comparison to Crystal Bridges,  which primarily serves a local audience, the Whitney Museum draws more international visitors.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney - Wikipedia
Member Night | Whitney Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges connects its patrons to the natural world through beautiful surrounding parks. The museum coined its name from the nearby natural spring that flows near the property, as well as a bridge constructed inside its building, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The overall tone of the structure is meant to combine qualities of art and  nature. There are nearby trails with outdoor sculptures along the 120 acre property. The mission of Crystal Bridges is to welcome all visitors to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites both the power of art and the beauty of nature. The Whitney Museum is in a prime location that many tourists and international travelers can visit, because New York City  attracts millions of people every year. The mission of the Whitney Museum is to be the defining museum of the twentieth and twenty first century American Art. It collects, exhibits, preserves, researches and interprets art of the Americans in the broadest global, historical and interdisciplinary contexts. The museum also educates a diverse public through direct interaction with artists, often before their work has achieved general acceptance.

Whitney Museum of American Art | Manhattan, NY 10014

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