When you travel to the home base of Walmart, you can expect big things. The Walton family has been diligent in giving back to the community and Bentonville has certainly prospered from this relationship. A prime example of this is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Creating a world-class art museum is an expensive endeavor. Making it free to the public moves it to an epic level. Looking out at the campus, it’s obvious the architect was embracing nature with their design. We placed a visit high on our priority list during our planning stage.
We want to thank Visit Bentonville and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Making New Friends
It was no accident that we planned our arrival for lunchtime. This was the perfect opportunity to meet our hosts from Visit Bentonville. Crystal Bridges features a scenic eatery named Eleven, which is the perfect location for a gathering. Laid out on a bridge, which spans a natural spring, we had amazing views in a tranquil setting. While the goal was to dine, we weren’t about to pass up this chance to show our appreciation. Our hosts filled us in on some background on the places we would be experiencing over the next couple of days. Armed with this information and full bellies, we were ready to explore.
We love checking out the local art scenes in the cities we visit. Crystal Bridges has amassed a collection that spans five centuries of American Art. While many of the pieces are paintings by recognizable artists, there are also many contemporary statues and mixed media pieces. By blending these in galleries, they keep the atmosphere light and playful. That allows the museum to be appealing to a wider range of ages.
Art for the People
Crystal Bridges has adopted a “no charge” approach for sharing its catalog of artwork. This makes it accessible to everyone, much like one of our local art museums in Kansas City. Bentonville is a huge draw for mountain bikers, who would usually be an unlikely audience. By adding bike paths and ample bike parking, the museum has expanded the groups that add this space to their itinerary. As we made our way through the galleries, we could sense the relaxed atmosphere that is prevalent throughout the museum.
Immersing Ourselves in Art
In most art museums, we find ourselves moving from gallery to gallery to see the artwork. Crystal Bridges has taken it a bit further, by incorporating art installations in the corridors that move guests between galleries. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase how the museum is embracing nature even on the inside.
While we found a variety of familiar artists’ pieces in the galleries, we were anxious to check out the outdoors. Spring had sprung and everything was so green. Crystal Bridges is embracing nature by providing eight trails throughout their property. We headed up the 1.4 mile North Forest Loop, which is packed with outdoor art. In the still of midday, we happened upon this oversized deer sculpture. Much to our surprise, we caught sight of a real deer just a short distance away. These outdoor trails really highlight how the museum is embracing nature throughout its various spaces.
With a gentle breeze cooling us off, we continued our exploration. There are so many art pieces that we couldn’t include them all. It seemed like each turn opened our eyes to a new “favorite”. While many of the pieces are open to interpretation, a few are just plain fun. Who would have imagined an assembly of canoes bursting from the ground? What about a huge spider that visitors can walk under? Crystal Bridges challenges the norm by spreading these unique pieces around the landscape.
Playing Off the Colors of Nature
As we wandered the grounds, we would happen upon various staff members. Most were busy maintaining the grounds to keep the installations pristine. Often, we would stop and chat with them and they all made time to make us feel welcome. The artwork that is embedded in the landscape really made us think. While many of the pieces forced us to ponder the meaning, others caused other questions to pop up. This Fiori Boat, by artist Dale Chihuly, had us wondering how it could survive the ever-changing weather that passes through Northwest Arkansas. Clearly, these pieces are sturdier than they appear.
Our Love of Art
Having a chance to enjoy and explore Crystal Bridges was so much fun. With so much art, scattered through various settings, there is certainly something for everyone. These are the types of attractions that quickly gain world-class status. We were still early in our visit to Bentonville, but we were already seeing the draw it has for visitors. The combination of relaxation and interaction made us eager to explore more of the city. As we made our way to our next stop, we let the moments at Crystal Bridges replay in our minds. What art museum has given you the biggest surprise?