Crystal Bridges to Turn Bentonville Kraft Plant into Art Space

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art said Tuesday that it will turn a decommissioned, 63,000-SF Kraft Foods plant in Bentonville into a visual and performing art space.

"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, the museum's executive director, said in a news release. "It will provide a new venue for creativity and experimentation, as well as direct access to artists and their work."

The New York Times first reported word of the new space Tuesday. In a news release Wednesday, the museum said it's planning "an innovative visual art exhibition space" that will also serve as a performance venue for music, film and theater, and support a "multi-disciplinary artists-in-residence program."

Crystal Bridges expects the space to open in 2018. It did not release financial details of the project.

The museum said the Walton Family Foundation will support the project "as part of its efforts to enhance quality of life in northwest Arkansas." Brothers Steuart and Tom Walton — the sons of Jim and Lynne Walton and grandsons of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton — are leading the effort.

Kraft discontinued use of the plant, which dates to the 1940s, in 2012. Wheeler Kearns Architects of Chicago is working on the adaptive reuse project, aiming to maintain the building’s industrial feel and features while allowing for maximum flexibility and use.

Crystal Bridges said it will work with MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country, to develop programming for the new space.

"This collaboration promises to bring complementary tools to each program," MASS MoCA Director Joe Thompson said. "We are excited about the prospect of the team at Crystal Bridges becoming part of the constellation of institutions, artists, and foundations with whom we enjoy working to help make and show new art, enlivening our hometowns while we’re at it."