**Crystal Bridges**

by davidbjensen

The museum's unassuming drive-up entrance.

Reflecting pool between gallery wings.

Nestled in an idyllic valley in the Ozark Mountains of Bentonville, Arkansas sits a brand new cultural treasure, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Founded by Alice Walton (Wal-Mart heiress), this museum, which opened on 11-11-11, has an endowment in the ballpark of $800 million–nearly four times that of the Whitney Museum.  Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the building is an architectural showpiece in and of itself.  And as for the art, the “heartland of America” setting is perfectly appropriate for its purely American focus.  The collections span a range from the Colonial period, though the 19th and 20th centuries, and up to contemporary American art.  The works displayed in many of the gallery spaces are easily comparable to what one might find in the MoMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Eakins, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and many, many others.  Paintings are the focus, but sculptures and installation art abound.  In addition to artwork, the museum houses a library with open stacks for art reference resources, and several computer terminals with internet access, subscription databases, and art-specific research guides.  The library also contains a rare books section, all of which were printed in America.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but this cultural institution is well worth a visit!  Best of all, thanks to a $20 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation, the museum is FREE for everyone…forever!

For more information on the background and development of this fine museum, visit the following links to publications in:

The New Yorker

The Huffington Post