Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
No article about Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art can truly begin without mention of Alice Walton.
As the only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, Alice grew up in Bentonville, and now commands a fortune of over $35 billion. While her two brothers worked for Walmart, she quietly amassed an art collection valued at $500 million.
The permanent home for these pieces? Crystal Bridges in Bentonville. Alice opened the museum on November 11, 2011, which has since had over 3.5 million visitors walk through its doors. The Walmart Family Foundation endowed $800 million, allowing free entrance to all the permanent collections for all visitors for the foreseeable future. (Visiting collections and exhibits typically require a small fee.)
When it was set to open to the public, The New Yorker described the layout best:
“In the end, eight pavilions, made from concrete and inlaid with wood, would be linked by bridges and walkways that offered visitors views of the trees and the water - breathing spaces from looking at art. The site was wedged in a tight ravine, and hemmed in by dense woodland: a two-hundred-thousand-square-foot cultural palace-to-be, nestled beneath the tree line. This would not be a triumphal acropolis, like the Getty Center, in Los Angeles. Crystal Bridges aimed to complement its natural setting, rather than crown it.”
The mission of the museum is defined as: “...to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature.”
The inclusion of nature can be seen for miles. The sloping road that leads to the museum entrance is lined with dogwood trees - preparing visitors for the fine mixture of nature, architecture, and art they’re about to experience. A melting pot of outdoor art, modern American collections and touring exhibitions give patrons an unparalleled taste of world-class art and Ozark culture.
Great news for out-of-town visitors! The space where the early American art galleries are housed is currently closed for their first redesign since opening. They will reopen in early March just in time for your trip to Northwest Arkansas.
While you’re at it, grab a bite at Eleven, Crystal Bridge’s in-house restaurant that can be found just past the lobby in the expansive wooden hall. Anchored by Jeff Koon’s Hanging Heart steel sculpture, with incredible views of the ponds and landscaping, Eleven and its menu of modern American comfort food are a true “can’t-miss” while you’re in Bentonville.
You won’t regret adding Crystal Bridges to your agenda while you’re in town for the Nowhere Developers Conference.