Walton Foundation Releases Designs for Crystal Bridges Museum

by Lance Turner and Bill Bowden  on Monday, May. 23, 2005 12:00 am  

The Walton Family Foundation and Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, on Monday released designs and renderings of the 100,000-SF, $50 million Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The museum, designed by Boston architect Moshe Safdie, is expected to open in May 2009 within a five-minute walking distance of Bentonville's town square. Construction is set to begin in 2006.

Planners expect the museum to attract 250,000 visitors each year.

"As almost all of you know, I've had a lifelong love of history, art and education," Walton said a news conference on Monday. "This project will meld those three visions. What we are doing today is a world-class art museum and cultural center right here in Bentonville. We hope this institution will rank as a must-see venue of American art."

The 100-acre museum complex will sit on land donated by the Walton Foundation and include gardens, forest and bike trails. Planners said Safdie is developing recommendations for city planning in Bentonville to accommodate more tourism and economic investment.

Planners also said they plan to change as little of the surrounding countryside as possible. Renderings of the museum here on the museum's official Web site, Crystalbridges.org, showed the museum tucked among the trees in a ravine fed by Crystal Springs.

Planners said the museum will present perspectives on America's history and heritage through the eyes of the nation's most influential artists, including Charles Willson Peale, Charles Bird King, Edward Hopper and Asher B. Durand.

"Crystal Bridges is a wonderful way to build appreciation for America's artistic heritage and create cultural opportunities here in northwest Arkansas," Walton said.

Of the works to be featured in the museum's permanent collection, the Durand painting "Kindred Spirits" has caught the most attention. Walton and the foundation paid $35 million the painting, an 1849 landscape depicting Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and William Cullen Bryant, a journalist who inspired Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In addition to a permanent collection of masterworks from American artists, the museum will house galleries dedicated to Native American and regional art and artists. Temporary exhibitions from national institutions will also hang in the museum.

Crystal Bridges will also contain a 250-seat indoor auditorium, areas for outdoor concerts and public events, gallery rooms for large receptions, sculpture gardens and walking trails.

"We are striving to create a community place that inspires and draws people together," Safdie said. "Bentonville is a friendly, close-knit town that can grow in a very special way by having a major cultural resource within walking distance of the main square."

Landscape architect Peter Walker designed trails and paths linking downtown Bentonville and area neighborhoods with the museum and cultural center.

Walton said a major focus of the institution will be creating learning opportunities for the region's K-12 students. The museum will develop student and scholar programs, including a dedicated tour staff, an art curriculum, remote learning facilities, and an art library and research center.

More on the Museum
A bill passed in this year's legislative session would exempt the museum from paying sales tax on art acquisitions, according to a cover story in the March 14 edition of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.



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