My first visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ( www.CrystalBridges.org ) in Bentonville, Arkansas, was last winter, so I stayed inside the galleries, admiring the vast collection of priceless art they contained. However, my visit to Crystal Bridges last week was on one of those spring days in the Ozarks when you are reminded of why you love living in this part of the United States. Therefore, I decided to spend all my time exploring the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum campus. Seeing this scene in the north lawn made me think of a new definition for "white line fever". In the past, that is what I called the wanderlust I feel, when it has been too long between highway road trips. Now, I will think of that term, when I start yearning to return to the green, green grounds of Crystal Bridges!
Exploring the area surrounding the galleries gives you numerous views of the architectural masterpiece that Boston architect Moshe Safdie has designed. With every step I took, I saw some new angle that I wanted to photograph. So I apologize for putting so many views of the exterior into this collage. In Psalm 23, David said he had so many blessings, his cup "runneth over". Well, likewise, there were so many incredible views of the museum exterior, that my "collage runneth over"!
Being outside along the trails, one also gets to see some art installations that the indoor visitors will miss. This photo shows the work of Pat Musick and Jerry Carr, entitled "A Place Where They Cried". It is a tribute to thousands of Native Americans who perished during the forced migration of Indian Removal on the so-called "Trail of Tears" (1837 - 1839). The artists organized a processional formation of human-scale monoliths of native stone, that appear to travel the terrain with stoic quietude.
Unlike the previous outdoor art installation, this sculpture can be seen from the interior of the gallery bridge, as well as from the Museum's North Lawn. It is called "Lowell's Ocean" and was created by renowned Abstract Expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero.
In another example of "my collage runneth over", I was wanting readers to see that there is excellent signage throughout the grounds that not only tells you where you are, but in some cases, also tells the name of the plants you are seeing, as in the case of the sign labeling the hepatica plantings. The photograph in the lower right hand corner is a reminder to mention that there are signs with the designation "EMERGENCY" where a visitor could access a phone to Museum security personnel, if so needed. Likewise, the flashing blue light on top of the Emergency post could be an indication to people out on the trails to be "heads up" for weather-related issues. In addition to all the signs, free maps of the trails are available at all of the entry/exit doors, as well as on line through the website.
This photo shows a section of the Rock Ledge Trail. It takes its name from the rock bluffs once carved into the hills to make way for a nineteenth century railroad that was never completed.
The Dogwood Trail features over 500 dogwood trees that flower with white blossoms during the spring (right photo) . The photo on the left, shows that many of the white dogwood flower petals ha fallen onto the trail, as though a little wedding "flower girl" had flung them from her basket!
One can easily walk to the lower south entrance of the Museum from downtown Bentonville via the Art Trail, shown here as the paved trail in the background.
Another way to enter the museum is at the passenger drop-off area on the upper level. This is where motorcoaches, automobiles---both modern and antique---let their passengers out before parking (upper left photo). One can also arrive by bicycle, or via the Orchard Trail that connects from Orchards Park and NE J Street. My high school science teacher often told her classes about being raised on her family's orchard farm in Bentonville. She probably never imagined the Bentonville orchards would become famous as the pathway to the USA's newest and best, museum of American art!
Since the museum IS in the Ozarks, it should be no surprise that there are hills that must be ascended and "hollers" that must be descended. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, both functional and decorative. Out on the trails, there are magnificent stacks of native stone, forming steps and ledges. Near the building, there are both concrete and metal stairs that get the job done.
All the walking and climbing outside can make a hiker tired, so there are benches strategically placed throughout the grounds for resting or meditating. Some are native stone, others are the more functional metal design. The Museum Gift Shop brags that it is different from most museum gift shops because it has a separate entrance, so that a visitor can choose whether or not to visit it. But that is not the only thing that makes it different. How many museum gift shops can say they gave a decorative garden on their roof? This photo shows a gardener diligently working on the shrubs that have been artfully planted on the gift shop roof.
This collage shows the trail to the actual Crystal Spring that the area was named for. The three steps in the lower right allow you to actually walk to the very spot where the spring comes forth out of the rock ledge (bottom photo). Water coming out of the spring cascades down the side of the hill (top right photo).
The water that has collected beneath the Crystal Spring has a different tint from the other reflecting pools on the property. The brochure describing the grounds emphasizes that the outdoor experience of Crystal Bridges is as important as the art inside, further stating that "art and nature are both vital to the human spirit, and should be accessible to all."
It was nice to see parents outdoors with their kids on the day I visited. The photo on the left shows a mother watching her son play in the rocks along the creek bank, while the photo on the right shows a father watching his son play video games (well, at least the father/son duo were doing the video games outside, although it would have been nice to see them looking at the panoramic scenery surrounding them, rather than a two inch LED screen!)
The creek that flows under the bridges has been beautifully landscaped with native stone and decorative grasses.
The art installations outdoors have numbers that correspond to numbers on the official map, describing the work.
This is an example of a hard-surface trail, such as the Orchard Trail, that is suitable for biking or walking. There are more than three miles of trails on the campus.
This azalea was in bloom on the day of my visit. Various plants will be in bloom throughout the growing season, similar to how they would be, in any Ozark climate zone. The grounds and trails will change character with each season, and they are open year round.
These glass doors are announcing the museum's first visiting exhibit, "The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision." I am already marking my calendar to be sure to make a return visit some time between May 5 and September 3! Because I save money by shopping at WalMart, I know I will be able to scrape up the meager five dollar fee that will be charged for admission to the special exhibit! However, there is NO charge to visit the museum, or the grounds of the magnificent complex!!! That is because WalMart gave $10 million to cover the cost of free admission for the public for five years! Even more amazing is the $1.2 billion given to the museum from the Walton Family Foundation!! Thanks to the generous philanthropy of Bentonville, Arkansas' Sam Walton and his family, visitors to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art can have FREE miles of FREE smiles for years to come! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! Tricia