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Foundation Unveils Findings on the Northwest Arkansas Arts and Culture Ecosystem

April 4, 2019
Highlights how region compares to other American arts capitals

BENTONVILLE, Ark., April 4, 2019 – Northwest Arkansas’ arts community has offerings for nearly every audience, according to a new study commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation. With the growth of internationally recognized museums and other cultural amenities, the report found the region is becoming more competitive with American arts capitals.

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Luis Gonzalez

“A highly engaged community where different voices have an opportunity to be heard is at the core of a thriving arts and culture scene,” said Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program Director Karen Minkel. “These findings highlight success stories from the region’s arts ecosystem but also spotlight areas to further elevate vibrancy in Northwest Arkansas through the work of cultural organizations and artists.”

To evaluate the region’s arts vibrancy, SMU DataArts examined arts providers, arts dollars and government support in both Benton and Washington counties over four years. During an event at Haxton Road Studios in Bentonville, which included a performance by Ozark-indie-folk duo Melody Pond, SMU DataArts reported how Northwest Arkansas’ overall arts vibrancy has increased since 2013 with the growth of large arts and cultural institutions, such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It has also substantially improved its rankings in arts education and “other museums,” as well as in the community-based, performing arts centers and theater sectors.

In arts providers, the region ranked below its peer counties of Larimer, Colorado (Fort Collins); Polk, Iowa (Des Moines); Fayette, Kentucky (Lexington); Durham, North Carolina (Durham); and Hamilton, Tennessee (Chattanooga), which have similar population sizes, arts vibrancy, socioeconomic characteristics and leisure amenities. Northwest Arkansas remained competitive in arts dollars with both the peer counties and aspirational counties of Ramsey, Minnesota (St. Paul); Travis, Texas (Austin); Buncombe, North Carolina (Asheville); Charleston, South Carolina (Charleston); and Allegheny, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) due to its flourishing museum sector. However, the region still lacks the critical mass of independent artists needed to support small arts and cultural organizations.

View the full report.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.