Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has received a $5 million commitment from the Tyson family and Tyson Foods, Inc., to establish the Tyson Scholars of American Art and the Don Tyson Prize.
According to a statement issued Wednesday (Sept. 19) by the museum, Tyson Scholars is a research and residency program geared to promote the study and understanding of American art. The Don Tyson Prize recognizes lifetime achievement in American art.
“American art has historically received too little attention from scholars and academic programs as a field of research,” Don Bacigalupi, executive director of Crystal Bridges, said in the statement. “Funding for its study has been sadly limited. Here at Crystal Bridges, we have made it part of our mission to help improve that situation. Thanks to the generosity of the Tyson family and Tyson Foods, our museum will be able to develop and foster a community of scholars committed to furthering the understanding and appreciation of American art.”
Crystal Bridges opened to the public on Nov. 11, 2011. The museum’s permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. The Walton Family — with Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores founders Helen and Sam Walton, leading the charge — endowed close to $800 million for the operation, collection and capital expenses of Crystal Bridges.
Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc. is one of the world’s largest meat processing, marketing and distribution companies. The company, founded in 1935, employs around 115,000 in more than 400 facilities with operations and sales in more than 90 countries.
Research residency programs provide scholars the opportunity to focus on large-scale projects without the interruptions of their regular professional duties, noted the museum statement.
The Tyson Scholars program gives Crystal Bridges something in common with to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Getty Research Institute, and other major art centers.
“In addition, through the Don Tyson Prize, named in honor of the late Don Tyson, former chairman and CEO of Tyson Foods, we’ll also be able to honor people who have advanced American art during their career,” said Bacigalupi.
The Tyson family’s interest in American art began with Don Tyson’s love of traditional American Western art, which he started collecting in the 1960s. His son, John Tyson, is also an avid collector. Over the past 20 years he expanded and diversified what has now become the Tyson Foods corporate collection. It includes the works of such artists as Ansel Adams, Troy Anderson, Thomas Hart Benton, Charlie Dye, Sam Francis, Harry Jackson, Frank McCarthy, Charles M. Russell, Andy Warhol and Jack Woods.
“We’re proud to help establish this unique scholars program and the lifetime achievement award named in honor of my dad,” said John Tyson, board chairman of Tyson Foods. “This gift reflects our long-held love of art as well as our belief in the importance of education. It also demonstrates how much we value the mission of Crystal Bridges and what this incredible museum means to northwest Arkansas and the rest of the nation.”
The inaugural Tyson Scholars are:
• Matthew Bailey, St. Louis
Bailey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History and Archaeology and a Lynn Cooper Harvey Fellow in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. As a Tyson Scholar at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Matthew Bailey will continue work on his dissertation, which examines the way artists conceptually and physically interacted with paint in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
• Jason Weems, Riverside, Calif.
Dr. Weems is an assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside where he specializes in American art and visual culture from the colonial period to the present. As a Tyson Scholar at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Weems will complete work on his current book manuscript, which examines the development of modern aerial vision and its effect on visual expression during the interwar years.
• Susan Rather, Austin, Texas
Dr. Rather is a tenured member of the art history faculty in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas. There since 1986, she has taught and supervised students ranging from beginning undergraduates to doctoral candidates. As a Tyson Scholar at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Susan Rather will complete her manuscript for a book examining in depth what it meant to be an American artist during the colonial and early national era.
Following are details about the Tyson Scholars of American Art program.
• The program will serve museum and academic professionals from across the world as they pursue essential research on the history of American art.
• This program affords and nurtures professional development, mentorship, and the exchange of ideas related to a variety of historical periods, fields, and methodologies.
• Tyson Scholars will examine established themes and explore new ideas resulting in innovative research in their areas of expertise.
• The research may also provide fertile ideas for Crystal Bridges’ own dynamic exhibition program, and Scholars will have the opportunity to interact with Crystal Bridges’ curatorial and research staff, as well as the community, through lectures, symposia, and collaborations with the University of Arkansas.
• A committee of Crystal Bridges’ staff and art historians from outside the institution will select each term’s Scholars through a competitive application process. Each Tyson Scholar will receive a stipend competitive with other prominent residency programs and will be housed in Bentonville. Applicants may apply for multiple semester-length terms of residency with a stipend for research and travel expenses.
Following are details about the Don Tyson Prize
• The Tyson family and Tyson Foods have funded the Don Tyson Prize: an award for lifetime achievement in American art.
• A jury of museum and academic art historians chosen by the museum will recommend for recognition an individual whose work has significantly advanced knowledge in the field of American art over the course of a career.
• The honor carries a cash prize as well as recognition by Crystal Bridges during an event given in the recipient’s honor. Crystal Bridges has begun the selection process for the first winner.