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Crystal Bridges makes its mark

Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of Art

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, the world-class museum complex that opened in November near downtown Bentonville, may put the small northwest Arkansas town on the map for group tours.

Crystal Bridges was financed by wealthy members of the extended Walton family, founders of Bentonville-based Wal-Mart, and is filled with priceless art objects from their collections. Crystal Bridges was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, whose vision was to integrate the largely glass-enclosed buildings of the museum with the beauty of the native Ozark forest that surrounds them, creating “bridges” with the landscape.

“We hope that guests will make our museum the centerpiece of a multinight stay in the area,” said Georgia Ross, a volunteer docent. “They can combine their stop here with visits to such other attractions as the Wal-Mart Visitors Center [in downtown Bentonville], Pea Ridge National Military Park, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Fayetteville and Branson.”

The museum is in the shape of a large stylized “9” with galleries on two levels surrounding a handsome garden courtyard and pond. Specific areas are dedicated to paintings and sculpture from four periods, ranging from the Colonial period to the 20th century.

The collection is excellent and extensive, including such varied artists as Gilbert Stuart, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. The museum also has private function rooms, studios and a large restaurant. Across a smaller courtyard from the main entrance and lobby is the museum store.
The lower “arm” of the “9” contains temporary exhibitions, miscellaneous exhibits, an auditorium, administrative offices and a library with an art reference collection of 60,000 items.

Wooded grounds and landscaped gardens with more than three miles of trails surround the museum, with a dozen works of outdoor sculpture, shelters and an amphitheater scattered along the trails.

Groups can choose from one of four themed tours and can preorder a box lunch, according to Barbara McBride, the museum’s special-events coordinator.

Group coordinators may contact McBride at 479-418-5788 or for further information.