Traveling Around - Bentonville, Arkansas - Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Getting There and Accessing The Museum
Nestled in the western slopes of the Ozarks near the borders of Missouri and Oklahoma is Bentonville, Arkansas. It is the home to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
The town is about 200 miles straight south of Kansas City and about 125 miles east of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Several airlines fly into the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport which has a Bentonville address but is about 15 miles out of town. Limousine and taxi service are available at the airport as are rental cars. Several of the major cities in the surrounding area offer bus tours to the museum. Most of these tours are overnight tours.
Interstate 540 curves around Bentonville and the museum is located directly north of downtown Bentonvillle just off NE J St near that bypass on Museum Way. Once on the grounds of the museum, much free parking is available although it is a little circuitous to get into the lots. A shuttle bus runs from the lots to the main entrance of the museum.
Admission is sponsored by a grant by Walmart Stores, Inc., but there is no direct connection between the corporation and the museum.
Creation of the Museum
In 2005 plans were put in motion by the Walton Family Foundation to build and open a major American Art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum was the brainchild of Walmart Store's found Sam Walton's daughter Alice. By August of 2008, the Foundation had amassed 488 million dollars in assets. More than 317 million dollars of that cost has been donated by Alice Walton.
In early May 2011, the museum announced three endowments by the Walton Family Foundation totaling $800 million. The museum opened on 11-11-11 and was the first major art museum (over 200 million dollars endowment) to open in the United States since 1974.
In 2005, art historian John Wilmerding was hired as an advisor and has commented that he museum's "quality and its range and depth already place it among one of the very best."
Touring the Museum
There is a large reception area at the main entrance to the museum. It opens into the restaurant area of the museum. In this reception area there is a check in counter that guests are asked to use. It is at this counter that audio tours of the museum are available at no charge. The reception area is on the southeast corner of the museum and the restaurant area to the west overlooks a large reflecting pool that is the in the center of the circular building that houses the exhibits. The restaurant has a large seating area and a varied light menu that is reasonably priced. The circular building creates a pathway around the reflecting pool and houses the artwork.
There are meeting rooms, educational facilities, and temporary exhibits located to the south of the main entrance.
The building surrounding the central pool is divided into four general exhibition halls. Those hall contain (in order) “Colonial to Early Nineteenth-Century Art”, “Late Nineteenth-Century Art”, “Early Twentieth-Century Art”, and “Twentieth-Century Art”
Beginning with Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, the paintings in the first hall take the viewer through a period of European influenced portraits and landscapes to the works that began to encompass the wilderness of America and its seemingly infinite possibilities.
In the second hall, American artists began creating luxurious and romantic scenes of the American West. Some of the American artists studied in Europe and the influences of that continent helped them capture the effects of movement and light.
American art began to reflect a less romantic style as represented in the third hall. Artists began to focus on street scenes and more rural geographic works. Modernists began to turn away from realism and create works of simple color.
The fourth hall has art that encompasses the concepts of minimalism. Some American artists sought new means of expression and used their work as a visual language to create an art form that raised the everyday to a new level of interpretation.
Outside the buildings that make up the museum are more than three miles of trails. Each trail offers different plant life and ecosystems. Major sculptures dot the landscape as the trails are traversed.
In the fall of 2014 and through the beginning of 2015, two special exhibits are offered. They are "John Jay Audubon and The Artist As Naturalist" in the fall and "Van Gogh to Rothko: Masterworks From The Albright-Knox Art Gallery" after the first of the year. Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth are scheduled for exhibit later in 2015.
The Museum is closed on Tuesdays but is generally open at 11 AM the remainder of the week. It doesn't open on some holidays. Complete information as well as specific directions can be found online at their website.