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Grand Central: Art tours

Courtesy Spencer Museum of Art

From homespun to highbrow, there’s art to fit every taste in the Grand Central states.

On a tour through Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, groups will find abundant opportunities for art encounters. In the area’s major cities, art museums boast collections of fine works that span history and the globe. And artisans in rural territories honor local heritage with a wealth of traditional crafts.

For the art lovers in your group, a stop at one of these artistic hot spots could be the highlight of a trip through the Grand Central states.

Spencer Museum of Art
Lawrence, Kan.
On the campus of the University of Kansas, the Spencer Museum of Art treats both students and visitors to a collection of more than 38,000 works of art ranging from ancient items to contemporary installations.

The collection includes about 16,000 drawings, photos, prints and other works on paper, in addition to a strong sampling of 20th-century contemporary art. Visitors will also find master paintings, Japanese paintings and Native American art.

“We have this diverse, global collection of art and artifacts, and we’re trying to make those relevant to the present day,” said Bill Woodard, the museum’s public relations liaison. “We collaborate with living artists and use this rich collection of ours to reach out to a wide range of people.”

Among the most interesting aspects of the museum is its international artist-in-residence program. Each year, an artist from a foreign country arrives to work at the museum.

During that time, the artists can meet and greet visitors and create custom artwork at the museum that remains on display after they return to their home countries.

The museum can put together a number of customized tours and other experiences for groups.

Crystal Bridges
Bentonville, Ark.
The newest art museum to make a splash in the central states is Crystal Bridges, an institution created through the vision of philanthropist Alice Walton. Located in Bentonville, Ark., home of Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters, this museum give locals and visitors free access to great works of fine art.

“Alice Walton had a desire to bring art and education to her home community,” said communications director Laura Jacobs. “We have approximately 450 works on view. Some of the art is from Alice Walton’s collection, and much of it was also acquired by our curatorial staff.”

The main collection includes a diverse assortment of painting, works on paper and sculpture. Visitors will find art by notables such as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. Norman Rockwell’s original “Rosie the Riveter” painting resides at the museum, as does a portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale.

In several reflection spaces between the galleries, guests can look out at the 120 acres of woods, springs and ponds that surround the museum.

“It all fits with our goal of uniting the power of art with the beauty of nature,” Jacobs said.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.