I am a fan of P. Allen Smith whose shows Garden Home and Garden to Table air on my local independent public TV station. On one program he showcased the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. I was enthralled and knew immediately that somehow or other by hook or by crook, I was going to visit it!
I didn’t have a clue how this was going to happen, I just knew it would.
As fate will have it, ITMI (International Tour Management Institute) planned to have their annual Symposium in Little Rock and guess what, one of the FAM tours was a day long trip out to the museum. Although I am on tour guide hiatus, I enjoy these conferences as they are so well put together. There are tours, luncheons, cocktail parties, seminars and opportunities to network. So what did I have to lose?
I also have wanted to visit the William J(efferson) Clinton Presidential Library and Museum which will be another post. And, to top it all off, I worked in Arkansas in the 1980s, loved every minute of it, always wanted to return, and never had the opportunity to visit Little Rock. So without thinking twice I signed up for the Symposium.
I arrived in Little Rock late Saturday night via Dallas/Fort Worth. I was starving so I ran down to the hotel dining room and ordered fried catfish and hush puppies, the staple diet in Arkansas (well, that’s what I remember). Two very nice tour guides invited me to sit with them, which I did.
The next day I was up early to be on the bus… er, motor coach… tour guides are not allowed to say “bus.” Surprisingly the motor coach was not full. There were other tours going out and I guess art museums can be a hard sell. Not to mention the more than 220 mile (354km), 3 1/2 hour drive (plus pit stop). Had I known it was that far… well, I still would have gone as what other opportunity would I have?
Fortunately, we had the BEST step-on tour guide you could possibly imagine who kept us entertained and informed for the entire trip. Darrel W. Brown. The title on his business card reads Administrative Specialist II, Group Travel Section. But it should read: Arkansas Encyclopedia. There was no fact, anecdote, statistic, rumor, joke or trivia about Arkansas he did not know. He couldn’t be tripped up. And his enthusiasm for his home state was palpable. If all we did was sit on that motor coach all day, his knowledge would have been worth it!
Alice L. Walton, is Chairwoman of the Board. She led the Walton Family Foundation’s founding of the museum. Walton is the daughter of Helen Walton and Walmart founder Sam Walton. As you may know, Walmart got its start in Arkansas. And on the way back to Little Rock, our motor coach passed by the original Walmart store in Bentonville. No, I wasn’t able to get a photo.
According to the website: Internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project’s program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations.
I second that! I am totally in awe of his design. Above you can see his doodle of the project. I bought the refrigerator magnet of this sketch. If only he could be hired for the redesign of LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) instead of the ghastly black blob we are going to be stuck with… we can do better… as usual nobody asked me.
Truthfully I enjoyed the architecture more than the art collection. But that’s just me. But if the art was the excuse for this magnificent building I’m not complaining!
It’s no secret I enjoy reflections and shadows… and I was having a ball here.
To repeat an expression I hate, but here it seems very appropriate: the architecture is the epitome of thinking outside the box. Literally.
I found out there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the grounds so I made an appointment to tour it. Photography inside the house is prohibited. And unfortunately the photo I know I took of the entrance didn’t make it on to my memory card.
From the website: [The Bachman-Wilson House]… was subsequently purchased by architect/designer team Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino in 1988 and meticulously restored. When the house was threatened by repeated flooding at its original location, the Tarantinos determined that, in order to preserve it, they should sell the house to an institution willing to relocate it. After the Tarantinos conducted a multi-year search for a suitable institution, Crystal Bridges acquired the house in 2013. The entire structure was then taken apart and each component was labeled, packed, and moved to the Museum, where it was reconstructed in 2015.
The landscaping of the museum campus is as beautiful as the architecture.
From the website: The trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges are a must-see part of the Museum experience. More than 3.5 miles of trails wind through the
Museum’s 120-acre site, providing guests with access to the beautiful Ozark landscape. Designed to spark the imagination, the trails help guests form connections to the land and its history, as well as enjoy outdoor artworks.
I only wish I had more time to hike all the trails. I could imagine hiding out in the museum overnight, waking up, having breakfast in the lovely restaurant then spending the day wandering the pathways.
I could be one of these sculptures sitting in this peaceful environment. For five minutes. Then I would have to be up, walking around with my camera.
The weather was so perfect. Cool and sunny. My favorite.
Skyspace, James Turrell’s Way of Color featuring a domed ceiling with an oculus opening directly to the sky.
I hated to leave but we had a long slog back to Little Rock. And I knew I could relive the whole experience with all the photos I took once I got back home to LA.
Please enjoy the rest of the photos. Click an image for slideshow.
Addition: Can’t believe I left off the photo of this guy who greets visitors as soon as they get off the elevator from the parking lot.
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