Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Brings Together Nature With Classics
Nestled among 120 acres of Ozark woodlands in Bentonville, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is more than a museum — it’s a destination, an economic development tool and a mesmerizing tribute to the history of American art, whose significance extends far beyond the borders of The Natural State.
Envisioned by Walmart heiress Alice Walton and named for the nearby Crystal Spring, the museum’s architecture is inspired by its picturesque surroundings and aimed at enhancing and protecting the natural beauty of the site while maintaining a high level of sustainability.
“The museum’s design integrates well into its wooded Ozark landscape, offering opportunity for dialogue between architecture and nature. Glass-enclosed reflection areas between galleries invite contemplation and exterior vistas,” said the museum’s Executive Director Don Bacigalupi. “From the 3.5 miles of trails surrounding the museum on its 120-acre grounds, to the two spring-fed ponds at the center of the campus, visitors encounter the beauty of the native landscape and are encouraged to enjoy art in the context of nature at every turn. The museum instantly reinforces our distinction as ‘The Natural State’ and also makes us ‘the cultural state’ too.”
Crystal Bridges houses 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, Tom Uttech and Andy Warhol, among others.
In total, the museum features six galleries: five permanent collection galleries, a temporary exhibition gallery and an outdoor sculpture trail. The space also includes a 3,000-square-foot Museum Store, a Museum Café and a Museum Library, with a print and electronic research collection that contains more than 50,000 items for museum staff, scholars, volunteers, teachers and the community to utilize.
Crystal Bridges opened in November 2011, and as anticipated, it has made a big economic impact on the city of Bentonville — the city reported more than $1 million in revenue from its 1 percent sales tax that was received in both January and February 2012.
“The museum has been quickly embraced by the Northwest Arkansas community, and has already become a regular part of daily life for many in the area,” Bacigalupi said. “The taste and demand for cultural offerings in the area will only continue to increase as the museum provides relevant and inspiring art experiences for all of our visitors. Additionally, there is already evidence of significant economic impact — in the form of new business development, increased tourism and employment in the area.”
As of May 2012, more than 300,000 patrons had visited the museum, said Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin. “Attendance is on track to exceed 500,000 for the 2012 calendar year.”
General admission to Crystal Bridges is sponsored by Walmart. There is no cost to view the museum’s permanent collection, which is available to the public year-round. Timed, reserved admission tickets are required to view the temporary exhibition, which changes every couple of months.
“As the first great American art museum of the 21st century, the importance of Crystal Bridges cannot be overestimated, for the nation and for our place in the world,” Bacigalupi said. “Trust me when I say it is one of the most dazzling and glorious collections of American art anywhere.”
For more information on Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, visit CrystalBridges.org, or call 479-418-5700.