Crystal Bridges Museum: More than Meets the Eye.


Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Crystal Bridges in partnership with Soapbox Influence. They arranged a private tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in order to facilitate this post. All opinions are entirely my own.

What is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art?

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Aerial View.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a museum located in the heart of Bentonville, Arkansas. You can find American art ranging from the Colonial era to the contemporary period in the museum’s permanent collections. In fact, Crystal Bridges is one of the best art museums in the United States!

George Washington by Charles Willson Peale.

Honestly, I never thought I’d find one of the most thought-provoking, inspiring, inclusive, and beautiful art museums in Arkansas. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this amazing place!

Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton (founder of Walmart), was the founder and mastermind behind the development of Crystal Bridges.

Crystal Bridges is a nonprofit organization focused solely on creating a world-class museum for the benefit of the public. Because of its commitment to the educational and cultural development of Northwest Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation has provided significant funding to help make the dream of Crystal Bridges a reality.

Big Red Lens by Frederick Eversley.

Crystal Bridges is so focused on making art and American history accessible to all of Arkansas’ children, that they encourage and enable schools of the area to visit often by providing students with a museum tour, goodie bag, and a healthy lunch FOR FREE!

Additionally, in partnership with the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit Program, they reimburse the schools for transportation costs and substitute teachers up to $250 per classroom.

Why aren’t more museums doing this?

The Power of Art : Inclusivity

Alejo Benedetti, assistant curator at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, made our experience an unforgettable one. Alejo is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. He made me see beyond the art, and into the true heart of Crystal Bridges.

We the People by Nari Ward. Made entirely of shoelaces!
We the People by Nari Ward. Made entirely of shoelaces!

The real stand-out surprise for me at Crystal Bridges was the fact that they strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all visitors.

As a minority in a city that still has a Confederate statue in its town center and Confederate flags adorning homes, I wasn’t sure how inclusive Crystal Bridges would be.

As soon as I stepped foot into the first gallery, my worries faded away. The “Power of Art” was showcased in its greatest splendor. Diversity, inclusivity, and acknowledgement of a rich and complicated past was powerfully evident.

Much of the artwork at Crystal Bridges has been meticulously chosen to represent all aspects of American history — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The amazing Alejo!

Alejo was mindful and thorough when telling us about all of the ways that Crystal Bridges strives to make the museum an inclusive environment. He also helped us see beyond what meets the eye in many of the pieces he talked to us about.

My mind was blown when I learned what many of these pieces actually represented. Art is truly powerful in that it can convey so many different things — to so many different people.

For example, I was shocked to learn that A Tight Fix — Bear Hunting had a much deeper, and darker, meaning. Alejo explained to us that what looked like a painting about masculinity and frontier mythology, actually represented the war over slavery in mid-nineteenth century Kansas. The bear represents the black fighters and the hunter represents the white fighters during a deadlocked war on slavery.

A Tight Fix—Bear Hunting, Early Winter by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait.
A Tight Fix—Bear Hunting, Early Winter by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait.

3 Ways Crystal Bridges is Creating an Inclusive Environment:

  • The Early American art galleries feature bilingual content in English and Spanish on all of their label texts and walls. Audio guides will also include bilingual content to better serve the many Spanish-speakers in the community, as well as their many Spanish-speaking visitors.
  • Crystal Bridges has partnered with the Springdale Family Literacy Program to create programs designed to encourage adult English language students to practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing English while exploring the museum and learning about American history art art. So awesome!
  • The Art & English program takes place every second Thursday of the month. This special program is open to any adult English language students interested in practicing conversational English skills. The sessions encourage participants to share their thoughts and opinions about works of art.
Chiluly piece at Crystal Bridges.
Chiluly piece at Crystal Bridges.

The Beauty of Nature: Outdoor Art

Crystal Bridges merges art, architecture and nature beautifully.

Central to the core mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the appreciation of nature! The museum sits on 120 acres of Ozark forest and trails. The location includes multiple natural springs, streams, and many native plants and animals. You may even spot a deer or two!

The grounds are impeccable, and even though it was snowing when we visited, the beauty of the well-kept 3.5 miles of trails was evident.

In fact, the outdoor beauty of Crystal Bridges is so important, that they’ve created an “Outdoor App” specifically to showcase and guide you through their grounds.

The walk from Bentonville’s town center and the 21c Museum Hotel is a short and easy one. Trails are well-marked and safe.

Additionally, there is an awesome “art walk” on the grounds, which highlight the outdoor art available at the museum!

Did you Know?

  • The restaurant inside of Crystal Bridges is named Eleven in honor of the museum’s opening date: November 11, 2011 (11-11-11).
  • Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum to open in the United States since 1974!
  • In January 2014, Crystal Bridges purchased the Bachman–Wilson House by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was carefully dismantled and relocated to Bentonville from New Jersey.
  • Daily General admission to Crystal Bridges is sponsored by Walmart! There is ZERO COST to view the Museum’s permanent collections. Occasionally, special exhibits may incur a small entry fee.
  • There are free lockers located at the museum. You are allowed to wear small cross-body bags and smaller purses/totes, but larger backpacks and totes will need to be stored in a locker. This is done to prevent damage to the art. They also ask that you wear your bags on the front of your body.

I highly recommend a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I’d go as far as to say that it’s 100% worth a trip to Arkansas, just to visit this incredible museum!

What is your favorite American art museum? Let me know below!

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