Seeing the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was the the main reason for my trip to Bentonville. It has been featured on television and in many newspaper and magazine articles since it opened in November 2011.
It features more than 400 works by American masters that have been collected by Alice Walton, the daughter of the Wal-Mart founder. Designed by the well-known Moshe Safdie, the wood, stone and glass museum fits beautifully into the natural setting. Plan on spending the day!
There is a permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, music and concerts, films, lectures, art classes, art book club discussions, and children’s camps and programs. The education center is great so stop in with your future artists to let them create.
The Collection: The permanent collection has works from the Colonial era to the present. Here you will see works from Thomas Eakins, John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, Norman Rockwell, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and many more.
The Library: Their mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to a large American art reference collection. The library has two large collections acquired between 2005 and 2006 and additional collections acquired between 2006 and 2011. You will find rare antique books, museum and auction catalogs, books on art history and much more. It was so interesting to see original letters signed by artist Winslow Homer and books on birds with rare original color lithographs.
Eleven: Located at Crystal Bridges, this is the attractive, all-glass restaurant with curved wood ceiling that overlooks the water. There is a coffee bar open during the day. They are open for Sunday brunch, for lunch from Monday to Saturday and for dinner from Wednesday through Friday. We planned our evening visit based on the dinner schedule. You can grab a cocktail and listen to live music on Thursdays.
The Grounds: The 120 acres of grounds are lovely with many gardens and sculptures situated throughout. There are numerous walking and bicycle trails that surround the Museum. They encourage picnicking on the grounds. You can easily walk from downtown Bentonville to the Museum. Don’t miss James Turrell’s Skyspace, The Way of Color, from 2009. This is made of native stone, steel, concrete and LED lighting and is a short walk south of the museum. At dusk you can experience the view of the sky from benches in the viewing chamber, altered by lighting effects that change with the light and weather conditions. I loved his work having seen installations in Dallas, Chicago and Japan. The show starts just before sunset and lasts around 45 minutes. Plan your dinner so that you can see this stunning experience! Sunrise viewing is possible one morning a month in the summer. Check the website for details.
Make sure to visit the latest edition to the museum which is the Bachman-Wilson house that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954. It was originally located in Millstone, NJ and moved 1,250 miles to Bentonville in 2015 due to flooding concerns of the Millstone River.
A vibrant outdoor sculpture that is now part of the museum’s permanent collection is Buckyball, the illuminated sculpture by Leo Villareal that had been on loan to the museum from the artist. It is s a 30-foot, ever-changing sculpture covered in LED tubes capable of displaying some 16 million distinct colors. Make sure to see it at night after you visit James’s Turrell’s Skyspace.
Now after 10 years since its opening, the museum revealed plans for an expansion in April, 2021 that will increase the size of the current facilities by 50 percent! This will allow them to present more art with two new galleries while also adding to the existing space for temporary exhibitions and offering new spaces for community displays. In addition, there will be more educational spaces and a dedicated floor with community gathering areas, art studios, maker spaces and flexible facilities that will engage creators of all ages and abilities. There will also be a new café and a circular event plaza thus increasing the opportunities for outdoor community programming and performances.