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Crystal Bridges Announces Director, Name of New Arts Venue

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced Lieven Bertels, a native of Belgium with a background in international arts festivals, as director of its new arts venue being developed in a former Kraft Foods plant in downtown Bentonville.

The museum also announced a name for the venue: Momentary. It will provide space for visual and performing arts and an artist-in-residency program.

Bertels, chosen after an international search under the guidance of the Arts Consulting Group, will assume his post in late September, the Bentonville museum said Wednesday in a press release.

He will be responsible for all activities related to the Momentary, including planning and development for the facility as well as artistic direction and day-to-day operations.

Bertels most recently was the CEO and cultural director of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 European Capital of Culture, a year-long festival in the Netherlands focusing on the arts in a rural context. From 2011 to 2016, he was the festival director for Sydney Festival in Australia.

“Under his stewardship, Sydney Festival garnered acclaim for its diverse artistic offerings and enjoyed wide public support,” Crystal Bridges said in the release.

From 2010 to 2016 Bertels served on the board of directors of the International Society for the Performing Arts in New York, and in 2013 he was made Knight in the Belgian Order of the Crown.  

From 2004 to 2011, Bertels was artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, The Netherlands’ oldest and largest arts festival. And from 2001 to 2004, he was the inaugural artistic director for Concertgebouw in Bruges, Belgium, where he was responsible for overseeing the planning, grand opening and programming for the first three years of the new campus.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lieven to Northwest Arkansas,” Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in the museum release.

“Along with international arts experience and a history of successful leadership, he brings a strong background in performance art and fresh ideas about ways to expand the cultural impact of the arts in our region and beyond. His work in Leeuwarden, at Sydney Festival and in Bruges demonstrate his ability to advance projects that are culturally transformative.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to connect the Momentary to the mission and welcoming spirit of Crystal Bridges, while exploring its own unique identity and role,” Bertels said.

“The Momentary is poised to be an international destination that demonstrates how contemporary American art and artists intersect with daily life around the globe,” he said. “The Momentary will push boundaries of creativity, blur urban and rural lines, and provide access to arts-based experiences in a comfortable and well-designed social space. This is a truly exciting project not just for the region but for arts communities at large.”

The Momentary is in the design development phase with new, exterior building renderings available here. The site work is scheduled for early 2018, followed by improvements and landscaping beginning in late 2018, with a goal of opening in early 2020, the museum said.

The arts venue was named the Momentary as the result of fieldwork and research conducted by FÖDA, a brand consultancy and design studio based in Austin, Texas.

Wheeler Kearns Architects, based in Chicago, is overseeing the adaptive reuse project. 

Additional consultants include:

• Landscape architect — Howell & Vancuren of Tulsa.

• Civil engineer — McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. of Fayetteville.

• Structural engineer — Thornton Tomasetti of Chicago.

• Acoustic consultant — Threshold Acoustics LLC also of Chicago. 

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