In my post Happiness is a Road Trip, I mentioned that one of the stops we will be overnighting 2 or more days is Bentonville, Arkansas. This town situated in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas is probably best known for being the headquarters of Walmart, the largest retailer in the world. And, while I am a frequent shopper at Walmart, this was not the draw. Interestingly enough, Sam Walton’s only daughter, Alice, has spent a little more than a decade acquiring a vast collection of American art and according to an interesting article about her in Forbes magazine, she is considered to be one “of the world’s ten most important collectors”. In 2011, in homage to her hometown, Alice opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to share free with the public a “permanent collection that spans five centuries of American masterworks”. And, THAT, dear readers, was the draw!
Arriving at the museum shortly after it opened on Friday morning we were surprised to see how many people were already walking through its galleries. This place appears to be a popular destination and so it should be. Even if you are not interested in art, the museum is situated in a ravine amongst the Ozark forest and is quite lovely. There are many trails that meander through the 120 acre parklike setting with many outdoor art installations dotted throughout. One of the trails leads to a home built by Frank Lloyd Wright which was moved to the property in 2013 when its former owners, in an effort to preserve its history, sold it to Crystal Bridges.
Wandering through the galleries we saw art ranging from the colonial period to current day. Still-lifes, landscapes, portraits and abstracts greeted us around each corner. Though I am by no means an art connoisseur, I recognized many of the artists on display here – Bierstadt, Sargent, Cassatt, Rockwell and Warhol all have a spot at this museum. Of course, art is a very subjective experience so much of what I saw I would not want hanging in my living room, but that didn’t prevent me from appreciating the effort and creativity of the artists represented.
All of us, however, were most impressed by the temporary exhibition by the artist Dale Chihuly. Though his art spans many mediums, he is best known for his work in glass and his exhibit here includes both indoor and outdoor pieces. The brochure that was provided us states that the work of Chihuly is “born of fire, forged with breath, and filled with light…” and I think we would all agree. Ironically enough, Chihuly’s studio is located on Lake Union in Seattle and when we took our boat tour there last year, we sailed right past admiring his glasswork through the windows. Who could imagine that we would experience it up close in the small town of Bentonville, AR?