You’ve probably been told by lots of your friends, just back from vacation, about some place or other that you absolutely HAVE to visit, right? Well, add my name to that list. You absolutely HAVE to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. No kidding. It will blow you away.
Trinity University alumna Alice Walton of the Walmart fortune founded Crystal Bridges as a gift to the American people, and she did a spectacular job. The museum opened on 11/11/2011, and was celebrating its 6th birthday the weekend we visited. Bentonville is located in Northwest Arkansas, and you can fly in to their new airport from almost anywhere (Ms. Walton was instrumental in that airport, as well).
The art collection itself is spectacular, extensive and priceless. We asked out guide, Deputy Director Sandy Edwards, how much it cost, and she said “Alice doesn’t discuss the cost of a gift.” Chronologically arranged, the works span five centuries in three buildings constructed across a spring-deepened ravine.
Here are a few pictures I took that show the diversity of the collection – you can find many more online. Take this link to explore the collection.
The architecture itself is nothing short of miraculous. The site is a difficult one, to say the least, and we loved the story of how Israeli architect Moshe Safdie partnered with Alice Walton to make this project a reality. If you have a few minutes, watch this video. You’ll get a feel for the personalities of both Walton and Safdie.
Here are a few more photos that show the architectural features.
Art at Crystal Bridges does not stop at the walls. All along the trails are sculptures and structures. This is a photo James Turrell’s Skyspace installation.
Here is is from the inside – Bill and our friend Peter Jennings enjoyed the headed seats on a cold Arkansas morning. The circular opening in the top allows for contemplation, and at dawn and sunset, there is a light show along the walls that transforms the space.
Obviously, I could go on and on about how impressed and delighted we all were with Crystal Bridges. There’s the Great Hall, the cool Gift Shop, the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Chihuly in the Forest exhibit. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped at a friend’s house, watching an interminable slide show of their vacation.
Just know that I loved this place for its art and architecture, and its special connection to the land. You will, too. Crystal Bridges really is a gift.