Did you know that Northwest Arkansas communities benefited from $52,537,755 in grants from the Walton Family Foundation in 2017....fifty two million!? The list of grantees, many of them grassroots organizations, are doing invaluable work that lift up our communities in innumerable ways—arts and culture, education, children and youth, the environment, etc.—work that reaches every corner of our region. You can check out the full list of grantees HERE.
We anticipate that the 2018 annual report will be released around mid-year. In the meantime, we couldn't help but notice the various recent mentions of the Walton Family Foundation that have been coming across our desk: updates from previous grants, news about current grants, announcements about new grants, and other noteworthy regional mentions. Get a look at some of them below.
Education: $1.1 million for Bentonville High School Ignite Program
"We want to help Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas become one of the best places to live and work in the U.S., and a high-quality education system is an essential part of that effort." Karen Minkel, Walton Family Foundation
Bentonville Schools developed the Ignite Professional Studies program to provide students with real, relevant learning experiences in collaboration with regional businesses, non-profits, and industry professionals. Now in its fourth year, this grant is intended to help the Ignite program expand and obtain use of advanced technologies (e.g. robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology) to prepare students for emerging careers. The program offers classes in eight career fields: Construction management, Culinary arts, Digital design and photography, Education innovation, Global business, Health sciences, Technology, and Video production.
Learn more from Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Public Spaces: Urban Design Projects that Put People First
"Designing spaces for people can support a child's ability to learn, provide a platform for local arts and culture to flourish, help keep a community physically active and mentally stimulated, spur economic development and help us live in harmony with the built environment." - Jeremy Pate, Walton Family Foundation
In the course of investing in Northwest Arkansas' public spaces, the Walton Family Foundation has supported several projects centered around residents' vision of what the community should look like. Through the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program, the foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants to design park and public space projects in four downtown areas in Northwest Arkansas—Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale.
Some of the most recent projects include:
- Fayetteville Cultural Arts Corridor (pictured above), which will provide easy access to arts and entertainment destinations.
- Luther George Park in downtown Springdale, which will include: art, music, events, nature and play and connections to the 36-mile Razorback Regional Greenway, downtown and neighborhoods.
- The Quilt of Parks in downtown Bentonville, which will thread together multiple downtown open spaces including 5 parks into a cohesive experience.
- Railyard Park in downtown Rogers, which will include a covered area for events, a stage, farmers market, water features, play areas and orchards.
Learn more about the progress of these projects at Talk Business and Politics
Arts & Culture: Affordable Spaces for Artists
"The Artspace team has visited 500 communities over our 40 years in operation, and the rapid growth that we witnessed within Northwest Arkansas is unprecedented, bringing unique challenges to the area," said Wendy Holmes, Artspace Senior Vice President of Consulting. "The need for attainable, stabilizing spaces for artists and arts organizations in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale is paramount to retain the vibrant creative class, and to continue to develop a thriving arts economy."
Thanks to $400,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, Artspace was able to complete a one year engagement with arts communities in Northwest Arkansas to study space needs. Artspace Projects recently presented their findings in a 210-page report, which can be found HERE. The major themes for each city are listed below.
A Thriving Cycling Culture
The world's biggest cyclocross event is coming to Northwest Arkansas thanks to grants provided by the Walton Family Foundation. This event will mark only the second time the championships have been held in the United States. Leading up to the 2022 event, the City of Fayetteville will develop Millsaps Mountain with state of the art cyclo-cross and mountain bike features, while BikeNWA will focus on supporting the growth of the local cyclo-cross scene through infrastructure development and education, as well as bringing multiple national-level cyclo-cross events to Northwest Arkansas.
"The City is thrilled to welcome the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship to Fayetteville in 2022! When we acquired the acreage for Centennial Park at Millsaps Mountain, our vision was to develop a new trail system to serve the emerging mountain biking industry as well as to preserve lands to serve local hikers and trail runners," Jordan said. "This event is proof certain that we can continue to dream big for our future. We are always happy to roll out Fayetteville's hospitality red carpet and share the unique attributes of our beautiful city with visitors from across the world!"
Read the full press release HERE.
Local Music Scene: A Hub for World-Renowned Jazz Musicians
The Walton Family Foundation is also helping support jazz performances and jazz education for young musicians and ensuring this uniquely American music continues to be a vibrant force within the region's diverse music ecosystem. Learn more about the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society and the unique story of our region's thriving jazz scene HERE.
Other notable WFF mentions making headlines recently:
- A $15 million whitewater park at old Lake Frances is in the works from GRDA, Walton Family Foundation - The state-of-the-art whitewater park at Lake Frances in Siloam Springs will include a 1,000-foot long, 50-foot-wide side channel off the river with seven drop-features to provide wave action for kayakers, surfers and tubers.
- Walton Family Foundation's Kim Davis Selected as Presidential Leadership Scholar - As a member of the fifth annual class, Davis joins 60 leaders from across the country who will learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.
It's clear that the support of the Walton Family Foundation has enabled our region to do some pretty amazing things. You've read about some of those things here, but below you can hear directly from the family themselves about why the home region is so important to them.