When my mom told us we needed to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, I have to admit, Steve and I both felt a little skeptical. It was a museum we didn’t know much about, nestled in a wooded area in a smaller city in northwest Arkansas that is mostly known for being the birthplace of the giant retailer Walmart. We both enjoy art museums, though, and figured as long as we were driving near Bentonville, we’d stop for a bit and a check it out.

I’m not even sure how to transition into what we found there, other than to just say it blew our minds!

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Starting with the giant spider sculpture at the entrance, the museum was nothing like what we expected to find in a town of 49,000 people in the hills of the Ozarks. We can honestly say that Crystal Bridges is not only one of the best art museums we’ve seen in the U.S. but perhaps among the best in the world. The museum’s permanent collection includes American art from five centuries ranging from the Colonial era to the present. It brings to light the diversity of the American spirit and effortlessly melds the art with the beauty of the nature that surrounds it.


Crystal Bridges pin image

And it’s all free. That’s right, the museum has no admission charge. This treasure is, instead, available to the public due to the incredible generosity of the Walton Family Foundation.

Because of the cold and rainy weather the day of our visit, we didn’t explore the trails or art outside. We’ll definitely plan a return trip for that, though. I could go on and on about this museum, but perhaps it’s best to let the art tell the story of our experience, starting with the architecture.

Crystal Bridges Museum architecture

First of all, the museum itself is a work of art. Architect Moshe Safdie created a gorgeous building that beautifully nestles into its natural surroundings. It just looks like it belongs there. We loved the layout inside, as well, as there was a clear path through the art. So often, art museums we visit are in buildings that once had a different purpose — maybe a palace or government office building. As such, you never know which way to turn to make sure you see the entire collection. Not at Crystal Bridges. Everything is laid out so well and there’s a definite flow to make sure you see as much of the museum as possible.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Another architectural feature on the property is the Bachman-Wilson House, an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic Usonian architecture. Originally built for Gloria and Abraham Wilson in 1956, the museum moved the home to Bentonville from its original plot in New Jersey when repeated flooding threatened its preservation.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Workers took the entire structure apart and labeled, packed, and moved each component to the Arkansas museum location. There, in 2015, workers carefully reconstructed it. Admission to this special house is free, but you do need to book a ticket for a self-guided tour. You can also take a guided tour for $10. Both tours should be booked in advance on-line. Photographs are not allowed on the inside the house. We took few snapshots of the outside, including the one above to show how short the ceilings are. Our guide told us Wright deliberately made the porch and entry feel closed in, so visitors would quickly move inside to home’s main areas.

Dinner on the square

We spent an hour or so at the Bachman-Wilson House and another hour at a special exhibition inside the museum. Quickly, we realized we needed more time. Fortunately, the museum is open until 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, so we decided to go downtown for a bite to eat and then come back for more. While you can grab a snack or meal at the museum, we’d heard good things about the food scene in Bentonville, so we decided to go downtown to check it out.

We secured a table for an early dinner at Tavola Trattoria and loved our entire experience there! First, we shared a Sicilian ball appetizer. We couldn’t get enough of this large risotto ball stuffed with house-made bolognese sauce and mozzarella. Steve had a ravioli dish for dinner and I had a delicious Einkorn wheat risotto with shrimp, spinach, and butternut squash. The drinks, dinner, and atmosphere were all divine!

Back to the museum

We returned to the museum at 7 p.m. and found a great parking spot at the later hour. We spent almost two more hours touring the museum in quiet and uncrowded spaces. Here’s just a taste of what we saw.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

“History is Painted by the Victors” by Kent Monkman | 1965

Crystal Bridges Museum art

“World Traveler” by Melissa Cody

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Crystal Bridges Museum art

“We The People” by Nari Ward | 2015

Ward’s piece was 8×27′ and was made of shoelaces on a black backdrop. The laces hang from perforations in the gallery wall. It was stunning.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

One of the most recognizable pieces of art in the museum is Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riverter” oil on canvas. It is Rockwell’s “iconic image of an American woman employed in the production of military hardware and is a powerful reminder of women’s critical contribution to World War II,” according the signage in the gallery. The image appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943.

More art at Crystal Bridges Museum

Crystal Bridges Museum art

We discovered so many other recognizable works in the museum, as well. We especially enjoyed the gallery pictured above and the juxtaposition of works like Andy Warhol’s “Dolly Parton” and Mary Cassatt’s “Summertime.” There were other really striking areas of the museum, as well, like this one below.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Crystal Bridges Museum art

Evan Penny created this piece called “Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2. Made of silicone, pigment, hair, fabric and aluminum, we found this sculpture to be hauntingly realistic. He created this 3-dimensional self-portrait to make himself look decades older. We simply couldn’t stop staring at it. This seemingly blank, gray canvas also caught our eye, especially after a docent told us it was worth millions. It’s called “For Carl Andre.” by Brice Marden. We found ourselves intrigued and wanting to know more.

Crystal Bridges Museum art

We found interesting works of art around every corner. I really enjoyed spending time in a gallery called “Personal Space” that considered how the “objects we surround oversells with, and the relationships we build tell stories about our lives.” The space below was created by Genevieve Gaignard and is called “Black is Beautiful.”

Crystal Bridges Museum art

I could on and on about this museum and the art we saw there. But honestly, you just need plan and trip and see it for yourself. I promise – you will not be disappointed.

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  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome
  • Our daughter, Meghan, is a cardiac ICU nurse. Despite all of the current uncertainties in healthcare during this pandemic, early this morning she put on her scrubs and went to work a 12+ hour shift. 
She is not alone. Across the country and around the world, healthcare workers are putting the safety of themselves and their families at risk to help others. It's what they do. Every. Single. Day. 
We are incredibly grateful that there are selfless people like this in the world and we pray for them and we hope you'll join us. 
We couldn't sleep this morning, so we wrote instead. Click on the link in our bio to read our morning thoughts and prayers.
  • Trying to decide where we’ll travel this weekend. Covered porch? Living room? 😉
  • We are staying home. 
We've been here for almost a week now because Ann is one of "those people." You know the ones. Those people with an underlying health issue. Those people with a suppressed immune system. One of those people who could become seriously ill, need hospitalization, and even die if exposed to the coronavirus.  Those people need your help to stay safe and live. And all you have to do is stay home when you don’t NEED to be out.

Over the past few days, we’ve seen photos, videos, and witnessed first hand people of all ages (but mostly young people) gathering in groups for what us mid lifers would consider “non essential” reasons: birthday parties, movies, youth sports practices, St. Patty’s Day celebrations at the bar, spring break at the beach, and the like. 
We don’t understand it. 
We try not to judge. 
But just for a time during this worldwide pandemic, could we ask people who are participating in non-essential activities to consider who “those people” most at risk really are?

Those people are already battling serious illnesses.

Those people want to see their grandchildren grow up.

Those people need to do their jobs as nurses and doctors.

Those people are first responders. 
Those people run the grocery store, and the pharmacy, and the gas station. 
Those people pray for you and your generation. 
And what about those other people? 
The ones you know.

Those people who made sacrifices to meet your needs.

Those people who took care of you when you were sick.

Those people who went to your games and cheered you on. 
Those people who taught you in school.

Those people who helped you pay for college.

Those people who cooked your favorite dish for you.

Those people who taught your Sunday School class.

Those people who have forgiven you.

Those people who will always love you unconditionally.

We keep wanting to scream, “It’s not about you, it’s about those people!” But the truth of the matter is, IT IS ABOUT YOU. 
You have the power to help.
You have the power to influence others.
You have the power to flatten the curve.

And by not changing your behaviors, you also have the power to harm. 
How will you choose to use your power?j
  • We’re sharing your postcards and encouraging you to help others and stay positive. 
If you’d like to send us a postcard, mail to: Postcard Jar, PO Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

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