Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville is opening a new exhibit with a focus on current visual and performing arts.
The Innovative Arts Venue will be stationed in downtown Bentonville and will “anchor downtown Bentonville’s Market District, brin
ging together a diverse range of artists to experiment and connect with one another and the community,” according to the Museum.
The venue, opening in 2018, will occupy a discontinued Kraft foods plant, which went out of use in 2012. The industrial space—a dramtic departure from the elegant wood and curves of the museum—has been in use since the 1940s, and boasts 63,000 square feet.
The new venue’s focus is primarily on contemporary art.
“While the museum features five centuries of American art, this new space will focus on today’s arts, artists and the innovations of our time,” Rod Bigelow, Executive Director of Crystal Bridges, said about the venue. “It will provide a new venue for creativity and experimentation, as well as direct access to artists and their work.”
This venue does not mark Crystal Bridges’ first foray into the contemporary art industry. Last year, Crystal Bridges held an exhibition called State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now. The exhibition featured contemporary art from 102 different artists across the country.
Beth Bobbitt, media relations manager for Crystal Bridges, said State of the Art helped to provide inspiration for the new venue. “It started in curation for State of the Art. The connections made with the artists and the art of our time was made during that curation. This venue allows us to do that, to exhibit and interpret the art being made today,” Bobbitt said.
The venue will focus on contemporary art and artists, to tell the story of modern America. “It’s important to the story of what’s happening today, and this is work that’s being made in communities around us, questioning topics and issues that are relevant to everyone,” Bobbitt said.
Bobbitt explained the importance of the surrounding community in building the Innovative Arts Venue. “We want the community to directly engage and birth new dialogue and experiences through the venue,” she said.
“This is an opportunity to the process of art unfolding, so it will have a direct impact on people who may not already have a baseline to understand contemporary art. We have plans for a more sophisticated education program. We have an artist-in-residence program in the works, and that will give artists an opportunity to exhibit their work in a space for up to six weeks,” Bobbitt said.
Amber Roderick, a senior art and illustration major and a college ambassador working with Crystal Bridges, spoke on the museum’s direct work with the community of Northwest Arkansas. “What we’re trying to do at Crystal Bridges is to encourage college students, the museum, and local artists to cooperate with one another to build an artistic culture.”
“The museum really wants to see towns grow, and creative people do a good job of that. Creative people have different ideas for what could make a town more exciting and engaging. Not even necessarily an art culture, but making connections with one another,” Roderick said.