10 years of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 10 years of positive impact on the community
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA / KFTA) – On November 11, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrates 10 years since its opening. And while the museum is well known for the art within its walls, it has had an even greater impact beyond them.
“It’s life changing,” said Bentonville artist Richard Lorenz.
“What a powerful thing to lay in the middle of America,” said Graham Cobb, president and CEO of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Just off I-49 and nestled in a wooded oasis in the heart of Bentonville is Crystal Bridges.
“From the start, our mission was focused on art, nature and architecture and welcoming everyone,” said Rod Bigelow, Executive Director and Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Crystal Bridges. “Our community has adopted us in an incredible way and it’s thanks to people who come as tourists to the area or people who have been here all of their lives.”
This emphasis on art, nature and architecture has integrated into the community of Bentonville. The new buildings under construction have an artistic quality.
Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman also said they consider art when it comes to parks and recreation. They also try to emphasize public art throughout the city.
“When you talk to people when they come, that’s one of the first things they’re going to mention, it’s Crystal Bridges,” said Mayor Orman.
Cobb said the museum has elevated Bentonville as a tourist destination. It has also helped attract talented and high performing workers who want to relocate to Northwest Arkansas.
“They want vibrant communities. They are drawn to ideas that are not like theirs, cultural facilities and good food, ”he said. “These are a lot of things that Bentonville brags about.”
It has also boosted the city from an economic point of view. Cobb said from 2004 to 2010, the total value of Bentonville’s commercial building permit was approximately $ 290 million, averaging $ 41 million per year. From 2011 to the first half of 2021, this same category exceeded $ 1.4 billion, for an average of $ 128 million per year. That’s an increase of three times a year.
“Restaurants, hotels, tourism, it’s huge. It’s a big deal, ”Cobb said. “But there is the cultural coin which, in my opinion, is inseparable from our economy.”
“For us to have this here in our backyard that our students can benefit from is very, very precious,” said Gravette School District Superintendent Maribel Childress.
Few rural school districts have world-class art just down the road. Childress said Crystal Bridges goes above and beyond by offering professional development for teachers and free museum kits for students.
“They are truly dedicated to all of Northwest Arkansas students, our teachers and our districts and make sure we have everything we need to help our students and families connect with the museum and connect with art, ”she said.
Bigelow said he saw around 300,000 schoolchildren walk through the museum’s doors.
“It’s exciting to see the children exploring the world they live in, thinking about difficult topics and things of joy, and thinking about what that means in their classroom and others who are in this room with them.” Bigelow said.
“It’s a huge impact because not many people can get to the Louvre or other places,” Lorenz said. He is an artist who has lived in Bentonville for about five years. He is known as “The Bird Man” for his fancyI representations of birds.
The museum is free for anyone who wants to go. Bigelow said the move was very intentional to ensure the museum is accessible to everyone. This accessibility has inspired and cultivated the local art scene, even inspiring people across the state, like Little Rock artist Lori Weeks.
“All the locals, all over the world who come to visit the museum, it’s just amazing and it’s so inspiring for everyone. We all feed off of it for sure, ”she said.
Lorenz agrees: Word is spread on Crystal Bridges and he hopes the locals continue to show their love for him for years to come.
“It’s here, in our backyard,” he said. “When there is a new exhibit, take advantage of it and go every time.”
Crystal Bridges has just unveiled its latest exhibition: In American waters, the sea in American painting. According to the museum’s website, visitors will experience the sea as an expansive way to reflect on American culture and environment, learn how coastal and maritime symbols moved within the United States, and question each other. on what it means to be “in American waters”.
Crystal Bridges has several events happening on November 11th. Click here to find out more.