- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Art in the South
Crystal Bridges Museum’s art and design are magnificent
Lots of people have visited Bentonville, Ark., home of Walmart, for commercial reasons. Now there’s another major reason to visit: to go to a new museum with a superb collection of American art. Not only that, but the museum, the idea of one of the heirs of the Walmart fortune, has no admission charge. “Your admission has been provided by Walmart,” they tell you.
Crystal Bridges Museum is the brainchild of Alice Walton, 62, youngest daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. The art alone in the museum has been estimated to have cost $445.4 million. The works are beautiful, from pre-Revolutionary War art to Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton and Chuck Close’s portrait of Bill Clinton. Cost was not a factor in founding the museum, as Alice Walton’s wealth is estimated at $21 billion, among the top ten wealthiest in the USA. She spent liberally.
Then there’s the building design itself, a stunning production of the world-famous Montreal architect Moshe Safdie. Its 120 acres are nestled in a ravine 10 minutes from downtown Bentonville. The museum is a series of several buildings totaling 200,000 square feet connected at right angles, with a stream flowing underneath. Looking down on the ravine from the fourth floor entrance, the copper-covered roofs remind me of a beetle. Some 3.5 miles of trails surround the site.
Alice Walton’s whole idea was to collect only American art. She’s done a good job. Museum people are surprised she would locate a museum in mid-America. But if her goal was unthinkable years ago, it works now: to make Bentonville a destination site for art lovers. She gets our vote, as we thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and hope to return again later on.
No one on the Crystal Bridges staff will talk about the cost. But the construction cost was estimated at $50 million alone. Not only that, but the museum has a support system the envy of many museums: an endowment of $800 million from the Walton Family Foundation. That is among the largest of any museum in the country.
Visitors especially like another feature: “Your admission has been paid by Walmart,” the guides tell you. Walmart itself gave a $20 million grant so that visitors would not be charged $10, as originally planned.
Once inside, what do you see: several tastefully-designed galleries, with plenty of room to display the art. There’s a Revolutionary War era portrait of George Washington, the giant-size Rosie The Riveter by Norman Rockwell, and then a plethora of famous American artists, from Thomas Eakins, George Bellows, Asher Durand, Thomas Hart Benton (for whom Bentonville is named). Altogether, there are 440 works on exhibit, and another 800 in storage to come out to emphasize different phases of art from time to time.
The museum opened on Nov. 11, 2011, some two years behind the original schedule. Many of the art works were on public display for the first time, since they were bought from private collections. Some individual pieces cost from $20 to $68 million each.
Crystal Bridge’s mission statement is simple: “We invite all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art and the beauty of landscape.”
Here’s a “Thank You” to all who shop at Walmart. You enabled the founder’s daughter to give the United States this wonderful museum.
* * *
IT’S NOT EASY to get to Bentonville, population 35,000 in Northwest Arkansas. You might fly into Fayetteville or even Bentonville, but it’s costly. You also have two other airports with direct flights within two hours, Tulsa, Okla., and Branson, Mo.
- Editor's Note: This story first appeared at GwinnettForum.com. Photo of the museum and the paintings are courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and used with permission granted to the author.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
When music publisher John Stark first heard Scott Joplin play his piano, he knew that ragtime was the music of hope for a new America. But Joplin would never be content with popularity and fame. Joplin committed himself to racial justice in the early 1900’s. He was inspired by Booker T. Washington and the Dahomeyan defeat in West Africa. But due to this earnest pursuit, he was ignored by the masses for writing the music of Civil Rights fifty years before America was ready to listen. King of Rags, by Professor Eric Bronson, is a historical fiction account of the quest for r Read on →
As it says in my by-line, in the several items I've posted previously on "Like the Dew," I recently ran for Congress. But I am not a politician, nor possessed of a personal ambition to hold public office. I ran, rather, because for the past nine years I have had a message that I regard as so urgent that I've been willing to do whatever I can to spread it far and wide in order to persuade my fellow citizens of its truth and importance. I believe that for the past decade or so America has faced a crisis as pr Read on →
A few years back, Columbia public relations guru Bud Ferillo made a film about several economically distressed counties that he dubbed the “Corridor of Shame.” This area, which stretched along Interstate 95 in South Carolina from Dillon County to Jasper County, got a lot of attention when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama toured an old Dillon middle school in the run-up to the 2008 election. But did you ever wonder whether South Carolina’s Corridor of Shame was an anomaly -- or whether something similar was happening on the other sides of our state borders? Unfortunately, similar conditions continue, extending north to Tidewater Virginia and curving Read on →
My beloved colleagues in Teh Media sure get on my last damn nerve. Most of the time it's just from sloppy work or jumping on whatever bandwagon is rolling by at the time, something along the lines of a pet peeve. Like when my Twitter list of political reporters blows up with some hashtag meme instead of actual reporting. Today it's #Obamacareinthreewords, launched by that icon of credibility, Rep. Darrell Issa. It's the second time around for that one -- Rep. Kevin McCarthy launched it the first time last June. (@WhiteHouse even got in on it, tweeting "It's.The.Law." Republicans responded with "arrogance Read on →