Nightly News   |  October 26, 2013

Walmart heiress brings art to Arkansas youth

When you think of Arkansas, art may not be the first word to come to mind but don’t tell that to Walmart heiress Alice Walton who has built a world class art museum on the edge of the Ozarks, attracting millions of visitors in recent years. NBC’s Harry Smith reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight our making a difference report is about a woman reaching out to give children the value of art measured in the lives of those who get to see it. harry smith tonight in bentonville , arkansas .

>> reporter: art and arkansas are not two words that necessarily roll off the tongue together. don't tell that to the alice wallton. she built a museum that's drawn more than a million visitors in less than two years. this building, this museum is on old walton family land, a place where you used to run around.

>> catch crawdads.

>> reporter: okay. the little girl who used to catch crawdads in a bentonville creek is the youngest daughter of sam walton , founder of walmart.

>> i remember what my mom told me. she'd say, you know, alice , if you give the thing that you love the most you will be giving the right gift.

>> what alice love it is most is american art . she and her siblings built a place for it called crystal bridges . when you see people walk through here now, especially children, what does it do for you?

>> reporter: it hits me right here.

>> she's moved not just because the children seem to be enjoying it so much but because she knows it is making a difference in their lives. university of arkansas researchers completed a massive study of children who visit crystal bridges and the results are significant. children who visit the museum have significantly improved critical thinking, better recall and greater empathy. the poorer the student, the bigger the visit's impact. art makes a difference.

>> reporter: that's why -- so much. i see everything in pictures.

>> that's why in an age where american schools teach to the test and a field trip to a museum might be seen as an extravagance crystal bridges pays for the bus and feeds this students lunch. admission is free. some days alice leads a tour or two. still following her mother's advice -- giving what she loves the most. harry smith , nbc news, bentonville , arkansas .

>> reporter: that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. i will see you tomorrow morning on "today." then right back here tomorrow evening. have a good night, everyone. -- captions