Crystal Bridges is a modern art museum located in the rapidly developing city of Bentonville, Arkansas. It has a modern and captivating architectural design that is unique to it, alone.
The museum is near Downtown Bentonville, somewhat tucked away among the forested area located to the north of the square. An expansive maze of trails and streams surround the museum itself.
Quick Facts about Crystal Bridges
- The total museum area is about 217,000 square feet, or 21,160 square meters.
- It was completed on 11/11/11. The main restaurant inside the museum is named Eleven after this fact.
- There are over 3.5 miles of trails on the grounds of Crystal Bridges.
- It is free to enter the museum. All entrance ticket fees have been paid by Walmart, Inc.
- According to Crystal Bridges’ website, they receive approximately 500,000 visitors each year.
- At least $277 Million of art was acquired for the museum.
The Crystal Bridges project was envisioned in the early 2000’s by Alice Walton, the daughter of the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton. Ms. Walton, along with the Walton Foundation, wanted to bring additional culture to the community and modernize it in a sense. Together, in 2005, they began developing plans to create the museum. During this process Ms. Walton hired renowned designer and architect Moshe Safdie to design the museum.
According to Wikipedia, Ms. Walton and the Foundation began acquiring works of art as early as 2005. She was able to acquire pieces such as Charles Peale’s George Washington, and The Lantern Bearers by Maxfield Parrish.
Construction of the museum was completed in 2011, and the museum opened on November 11, 2011. With its beautiful bridges and art galleries suspended just above the water, the museum itself was described as a work of art. Its art collection has repeatedly placed it in the top 10 art museums in the United States by respected art collectors. It has been a significant contribution to the Bentonville community, and much of the downtown and surrounding area has been revitalized due to its presence.
Visiting Crystal Bridges
There are two main routes to get to the museum. The most commonly used entrance is the main entrance on J Street. The second entrance is accessible by parking downtown and entering a walking trail near 3rd and B street. This entrance is just north of the water / splash park.
There are a number of different collections in the museum. Some of these collections are permanent and some are temporary. The first gallery contains famous portrait and landscape paintings. The third gallery contains modern art, and is a favorite of this author. A few of their temporary collections include Chihuly, North Forest Lights and Angels & Tomboys.
Crystal Bridges is deeply invested in education for children. There are several classrooms where visiting students and children can engage in activities that teach them about art. The museum also has an full activity room dedicated to children.
An mid to upscale restaurant, named Eleven, is located near the front entrance of the museum. Its name is derived from the opening date of the museum – 11/11/11. The restaurant has beautiful, serene views, and is a great place to grab lunch or have a romantic date.
One of the best parts of visiting the museum is walking around the trails, grounds and gardens. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different plant species. There is also an authentic Frank Lloyd Wright home on the grounds, called the Bachman-Wilson House. The house was in danger of being damaged from flooding in its previous location in New Jersey, so Crystal Bridges purchased and relocated it to Bentonville where it is safely on display.
Attractions near Crystal Bridges
There are a number of new and wonderful activities near Crystal Bridges. A new science-experience museum called the Amazeum recently opened just outside of Crystal Bridges. The original Walton Five and Dime – the first store operated by Sam Walton – is located in the Bentonville Square.
There are also ample opportunities to get outdoors and explore Northwest Arkansas nearby. Tanyard Creek is a beautiful nature park that is free to the public. It has spectacular waterfalls and beautiful walking trails that can be completed in a couple hours. Another great park is Devil’s Den, located about an hour south of Bentonville.