Traveling Around - Bentonville, AR - Crystal Bridges Museum
Nestled in the forested hills and valleys just a couple miles north of the Walmart Museum we visited in Bentonville is the Crystal Bridges Museum. The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie and, at a cost of $1.200,000,000, was funded by the Walton Family with Alice Walton as the chairman of the board and the directing influence on the creation of the museum. It is nestled in the valley of a 120 acre park and is very large. The tree in the picture to the right is a sculpture by Roxy Paine and is located at the main entrance to the museum.
The main entrance is located a couple levels down from the parking areas and it appears that elevators are the main entrance when really they just take you to the main entrance. Outside the elevator shaft is a gigantic sculpture entitled "Maman" by Louise Bourgeois. It dwarfs the elevator shaft and well represents the artworks to be found inside.
Inside the main entrance the avenues open in 3 directions. One is to offices and temporary exhibits, the second is the restaurant, and the third is to the museum proper. There are attendants on duty that direct all entrants to the registration desk where pleasant clerks at guest services register the attendance. They are happy to answer questions and give directions.
We had read that there were free personal audio tours and the registration clerk was glad to issue us each the necessary equipment and explain its usage. She explained that about 20 percent of the exhibits had audio associated with them and that the ones that had audio would have a small sign beside them. She instructed (and demonstrated to us) the method for listening to the audio for each displayed spot. It was a great addition to our visit and we'd recommend it to any attendee.
The museum is vast but well designed to allow the visitor to proceed from one gallery to the next. In each gallery we'd visit, we'd search out the audio sign and spend time listening to the discussion on the audio device. Undoubtedly we spent more time with those paintings than we did with the majority of the work at the museum.
I personally enjoy sculpture more than I enjoy paintings so spent more time with them than Sharon. Even then, I'd usually finish viewing a gallery before she did and have an opportunity to sit down and rest (which at my age I needed).
(That's not me sitting on the bench in the second sculpture photo - just what I felt like).
The pictures that I've included are of my favorite three sculptures at the museum. They are just a small portion of the enjoyable ones. Not only are there many inside the building, there is a sculpture garden in the outdoors.
The museum is designed as sort horseshoe in shape so that you tour the facility and end at the location where you started. We used the opportunity of being near the entrance to return the audio tour equipment and to have lunch in the cafeteria.
After lunch we proceeded to the temporary exhibit area. At the current time it houses an exhibit of a study of the border between Mexico and the United States and the stark (and sometimes beautiful) reality of the barriers at the border.
We arrived at the museum near opening time in the morning. A church group consisting of three busloads of young people arrived just a few minutes before us. They were getting organized prior to admission and the security guard waved to us so that we bypassed the group. Once they had the large (probably close to 100) group of young people organized, they were split into groups of about 10 and with a docent for each group began their tour. We appreciated the smaller groups because they created less of a hubbub as they proceeded and they didn't disrupt what we did.
We completed our attendance about 2 PM and could probably have spent twice that much time there. I don't have the stamina that I had as a younger man but enjoyed the visit. I think Sharon regretted not being there for a longer period of time.
Admission to the museum is free. The operation of the museum is funded by The Walmart Corporation. Many tours are offered on a daily basis. There is a lot of emphasis on education at the museum and there are many classes and lectures offered. Much information is available on their website.