Who would think that someone would go to Arkansas for the weekend? When we told people where we were going, we would get interesting looks and questions.
A few years back, when in Stratford, Ontario, we talked to our proprietors about a trip they took to one of the best museums ever. Guess what? It was in Bentonville, Arkansas. That piqued our interest.
Recently, as MK and I were in the car, I asked her to do some research on the museum we had learned about: Crystal Bridges, in northwestern Arkansas. It is the project of Alice Walton and a gem in every sense of the word. In spite of its short existence (it opened on November 11, 2011), it is clearly a world class museum and not to be missed.
Often when projects are begun, things go awry and things that should be attended to are often not. That does not seem to be the case here. Even its beginnings have been well thought out. The architecture of Moshe Safdie, a world renowned, Israeli born architect, has the buildings set above water and involving much glass, hence the Crystal Bridges name. To get to the museum can be by car, but we chose the walkway (shared with bikes and runners) to get to the nearby museum via a nature and art walk. It is just a bit more than half a mile.
The first day, we had tickets, at a cost of 0$, for the Bachman-Wilson Frank Lloyd Wright house, taken from a flooding situation in New Jersey and brought to Arkansas piece by piece and reassembled. It was a delight. Today, we had tickets for the Annie Leibovitz exhibition (which will go into January) and then we went into the main museum collection. To get in, as stipulated by Alice Walton as something all people should have access to, we paid 0$. The exhibition, as an extra, did cost but it was free for us since we decided to become members and be more supportive. The Annie Leibovitz exhibit was absolutely spectacular and in and of itself would have qualified the museum as a top notch art venue, but then we saw the rest of the North American collection. We were absolutely gobsmacked by the impressive collection.
The museum has a restaurant (Eleven) and a coffee bar on one of the bridges over the pond. We visited the wonderful museum store and also experienced numerous pieces of art along the Art and Nature Trail to get there. The museum has over 120 acres of land and is immediately adjacent to the downtown Bentonville area. On our arrival day, we had a snack on the main square and realized very quickly that Bentonville is most clearly a wonderful place to find good food. The Waltons and WalMart have certainly not always been viewed favorably, but they have clearly established the area as an important locale that is not to be ignored.
This evening there will be Christmas tree lighting in the downtown area and beforehand, we shall go to another art moment in the North Forest called the Listening Forest which was created by Rafael Lozano-Hammer. It will be an interactive experience. Last night we ate at the hotel gourmet restaurant (we are staying at 21C), the Hive. We had breakfast there this morning. Tonight will be barbecue at Wright’s Barbecue a few short steps away.
Everyone here has been delightful and the people are friendly and clearly from all over, creating a very cosmopolitan situation. We are very glad to have been able to make the trek from Chicago in a flight that was a little less than two hours.
It has been a great weekend thus far.