Art Bridges: The Bridge Ahead Initiative

The Weatherspoon has received a generous award of $40,000 from the Bridge Ahead Initiative, a project of the Art Bridges Foundation.

The vision of arts patron Alice Walton, Art Bridges is dedicated to expanding access to American art by providing support to museums for exhibition development, collection loans, and programs. The Weatherspoon became an Art Bridges partner early this past year when it worked with the foundation to borrow artist Jeff Koons’s One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series). The mesmerizing sculpture features a basketball hovering inexplicably at the center of a tank of water, and earlier this spring, it was the first artwork visitors saw as they entered the Weatherspoon’s exhibition To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art.

That exhibition, like so many others across the country, went dark in mid-March as the Weatherspoon closed its doors in the wake of COVID-19. Not long after, Art Bridges announced its Bridge Ahead initiative, a direct response to closures and challenges brought on by the pandemic. The initiative allowed the foundation’s partner museums with budgets under $30 million to apply for funding to offset financial needs created by the pandemic. Awarded in two phases, the grants support both activities pursued while museums are closed and projects undertaken as the museums open.

The Weatherspoon’s Phase 1 award has been used in multiple ways. It has supported additional photography of our exhibitions so that we can share them online, provided honoraria for arts and writing teachers to produce summer educational activities shared digitally, and allowed the museum to purchase its own Zoom webinar license in order to host live programs remotely. When the museum re-opened, Bridge Ahead funds for Phase 2 helped us equip the museum with protective equipment, social distancing signage, additional outdoor seating, and enhanced cleaning measures. In addition, the funding will allow us to build a custom mobile audio-visual cart for providing remote tours of the galleries in real-time for those groups that are no longer able to visit in person.

The overall support of Art Bridges is truly transformative. The Weatherspoon is thrilled to be able to continue sharing Jeff Koons’s incredible sculpture in the museum’s extended run of To the Hoop, and is so grateful for the support to make this exhibition, as well as other shows and programs, accessible in multiple ways both in and outside the museum. In these trying times, the power of art is more important than ever, and we thank Art Bridges for allowing us to share it as widely as possible.

UNCG men’s basketball team visits To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art (February 6, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020. Artwork: Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), 1985. Glass, steel, sodium chloride reagent, distilled water, and basketball, 64 ¾ x 30 ¾ x 13 ¼ in. Art Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas. © Jeff Koons