Art Bridges Foundation Launches $40 Million Nationwide ‘Access for All’ Initiative to Reduce Barriers to Museum Visits
Oct. 11, 2023, Bentonville, AR — Art Bridges Foundation, the national arts nonprofit founded by philanthropist Alice Walton, announced today the launch of “Access for All,” providing $40 million in funding to 64 museums nationwide. The initiative aims to increase access to museums across the country and foster engagement with local communities by covering the costs of free admission days and expanded free hours as well as programming, outreach, and community partnerships that together, will eliminate many common barriers to access.
Museums participating in the Access for All initiative span 36 states and Puerto Rico. Among the 64 partners representing a broad range of locations are the Chazen Museum of Art (Madison, WI); Howard University Gallery of Arts (Washington, D.C.); Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (San Juan, PR); Plains Art Museum (Fargo, ND); Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME); San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, CA); Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY); Wichita Art Museum (Wichita, KS); and Yellowstone Art Museum (Billings, MT). The full list of participating museums can be found on the Art Bridges website.
“Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves access to art. That’s why we started Art Bridges: to support museums in deepening their connections with local communities, and to pave the way for new audiences to experience the creativity and joy that comes with seeing art,” said Alice Walton, founder and board chair of Art Bridges. “Access for All is our biggest and most ambitious effort to date, dedicating $40 million toward bridging gaps between museums of all sizes and their communities in order to foster meaningful connections and expand arts access in every region, from Peoria to Puerto Rico.”
Access for All represents a sweeping effort to get people back to museums after COVID-19 brought declines in revenue, staffing and attendance. With many museums seeing just 71 percent of their pre-pandemic attendance, the new initiative will aim to restore pre-pandemic levels – and open opportunities for all people to enjoy American art by reducing barriers to access and strengthening community relationships.
Of the participating 64 museums, all current partners of Art Bridges, 80 percent have annual operating expenses under $10 million. The majority charge admission fees and will be able to provide new free admission opportunities through Access for All. Others will use the Access for All funds to sustain or extend current free admission policies.
Each museum will have the opportunity to use the funds to develop tailored programming specifically for their communities, including but not limited to:
- Underwriting free admission on a designated “Access for All Day,” expanded hours, or full-time;
- Partnering with local transit agencies and community centers to facilitate free and accessible transportation;
- Designing interdisciplinary and culturally responsive programs relevant to community interest;
- Providing fully bilingual interpretation, assistive listening systems, marketing and programming, including Spanish, American Sign Language, and indigenous languages;
- Expanding outreach to local schools;
- Working with local organizations to help organize free community meals;
- Hiring new staff responsible for the creation of community engagement programming and more.
“We are thrilled to launch Access for All, a historic partnership with cultural institutions across the country to make it easier for people in every U.S. region to see and experience art. At Art Bridges, we can’t wait to see our trusted partners get creative and deliver impact to their communities,” Alice Walton said. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are confident Access for All will not only help to rebuild museum attendance but also bring more people than ever into museum galleries and reshape the arts world as one that is open to all.”
“The Chazen Museum of Art is thrilled to be part of the pilot for the Art Bridges’ Access for All initiative,” said Kristine Zickuhr, chief operating officer. “Accessibility is one of our guiding values, and we look forward to developing additional opportunities to welcome students and other visitors into the museum. While we already offer free admission, the funding will allow us to experiment with some fun programming ideas. We’re working on events like trivia and game nights, book clubs, and informal conversations at the Chazen Café. Students will be involved in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the events. We want every student on campus to feel welcome at the Chazen.”
About Art Bridges Foundation
Art Bridges Foundation is the vision of philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton. The mission of Art Bridges is to expand access to American art in all regions across the United States. Since 2017, Art Bridges has been creating and supporting programs that bring outstanding works of American art out of storage and into communities. Art Bridges partners with a growing network of over 220 museums of all sizes and locations on nearly 700 projects across the nation, impacting over 4.1 million people, to provide financial and strategic support for exhibition development, loans from the Art Bridges Collection, and programs designed to educate, inspire, and deepen engagement with local audiences. The Art Bridges Collection represents an expanding vision of American art from the 19th century to present day and encompasses multiple media and voices. For more information, visit artbridgesfoundation.org.