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Inspiring "Art Spirit" in Next Generation of Students

August 23, 2017
Alice Walton
Gift to establish University of Arkansas School of Art

When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding.” Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (1923)

The “art spirit,” described by American artist and teacher Robert Henri, exists in everyone. It is not limited by gender, ethnicity, income, age or geography. It is not limited to artists or others who work in art-related professions. I discovered my own "art spirit" as a child painting watercolor landscapes with my mother. It has been a guiding force in my life ever since – in finance, in business, in philanthropy. And, especially, in art itself.

I am thrilled that through collaboration with the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the University of Arkansas announced today a groundbreaking initiative with the establishment of the new University of Arkansas School of Art.


From Northwest Arkansas, we will inspire students and scholars from around the globe with a fresh approach that will help redefine collaboration and experimentation by infusing the study of art into disciplines across higher education including business, education, architecture and engineering. And with a close connection to Crystal Bridges, we will bring a new level of study to American art to help create a better understanding of our history and our future. Up-close interaction with the museum’s collection and exhibition program will drive a unique curriculum. This approach will be built on an intimate relationship between a work of art and the viewer and will serve as a launch pad for scholarship and interpretation.

Art broadens our minds and expands our horizons—everyone’s horizons. It shifts our perspective and elevates our creativity. Every student can learn about art and apply creative thinking to excel in his or her chosen field of study. This will help develop not only inspiring artists but stronger business leaders, engineers and scientists as well.

As we increase access to art, we plant the seeds of inspiration for the future.

Henri wrote, “Museums of art will not make a country an art country. But where there is the art spirit there will be precious works to fill museums. Better still, there will be the happiness that is in the making. Art tends towards balance, order, judgment of relative values, the laws of growth, the economy of living – very good things for anyone to be interested in.”

Our stories unfold through art and so does imagination and hope. As students both learn about art and through art, we build a future in which generations to come will be inspired by their own “art spirit.”

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