In 2009, native New Yorker Don Bacigalupi packed his bags and moved to Bentonville to help build, open and oversee Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art as its executive director. He’d only been to Arkansas once before, but he fondly recalled the magnificent beauty of The Natural State and didn’t hesitate a moment to make it his home.

“I love the fact that even while maintaining its small-town character and charm, Bentonville is continually building great new amenities which give it the best of both worlds,” he said.

Not the least of these amenities is Crystal Bridges. The 100,000-square-foot museum is slated to open Nov. 11, 2011, and will house permanent and temporary exhibits of American artworks from the Colonial era to modern times, including works by Norman Rockwell, John Koch, Wayne Thiebaud, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

“As the first great American art museum of the 21st century, the importance of Crystal Bridges cannot be overestimated…” Bacigalupi said. “Trust me when I say it is one of the most dazzling and glorious collections of American art anywhere.”

Bacigalupi holds a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in art history with a concentration in American art of the 20th century, and he has more than a decade of museum management expertise from the Toledo Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, the University of Houston’s Blaffer Gallery and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

When he’s not busy running the show at Crystal Bridges, Bacigalupi spends his time exploring Arkansas. “We’ve been all around Northwest Arkansas, to Eureka Springs, Little Rock and a quick trip to the Delta. We’ve made a couple of spectacular float trips to the Kings River and the Buffalo. But there are so many places we look forward to seeing.”

Local Flavor
Some of Bacigalupi’s favorites

Where to eat:
A Taste of Siam - "Excellent Thai food!"
Fred’s Hickory Inn - "Award-winning pit BBQ, hand-cut steaks and delicious Italian food."
Table Mesa Bistro - "This boutique-style bistro is located on the square, in the heart of Bentonville’s historic district."

What to do:
Bentonville, Fayetteville and Rogers Farmers Markets - "The best fresh, local produce and products."
Bentonville First Fridays - "The Bentonville Square transforms into a huge block party filled with live music, great food and all-day-long fun."