Saturday, January 03, 2015
Bentonville, Arkansas – Now a Nationally Recognized Tourist Destination.
The opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its recognition as a major art institution have spurred much growth in other travel-related industries: the C21 Luxury Hotel opened nearby, many new restaurants have opened on or near the Bentonville square, and the Wal-Mart Museum has grown and expanded.
Travel and Leisure called Bentonville one of the top tourist destinations (worldwide) in 2012, and the Huffington Post has just named it to its 5 top “up and coming” tourist destinations.
Bentonville, the heart of Benton County, is a lovely, small city (less than 40,000 residents) in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Everyone over the age of six knows Bentonville is the home of Wal-Mart. But, how many have considered what that means to the economy and culture of the city and the whole of Northwest Arkansas?
Apples provided the main economic base in the late 1800s to 1920s. When apple production slipped from its heyday, poultry took over. Millions of broiler chickens are still raised in Benton County.
The beginning of dramatic changes for Bentonville occurred in 1962 when Sam Walton opened his first Walmart store in neighboring Rogers, Arkansas. No one, not even Sam Walton, could possibly have foreseen the changes that event would create.
By 1971, Wal-Mart’s first distribution center and home office opened in Bentonville. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Major corporations that supplied wholesale goods to Wal-Mart started sending major representatives to live in NW Arkansas where they could make decisions on the spot. As people and families arrived from all over the country, the need for housing, schools, churches, stores, recreation facilities, and the arts increased exponentially.
The lack of cultural events and the arts seemed to be the major complaint from newcomers. They loved the climate and natural beauty of the Ozarks but greatly missed events they were accustomed to in larger cities.
In time, the Walton Arts Center was built in Fayetteville, bringing Broadway shows and talent of all genres never before seen in NW Arkansas. A 600-seat expansion is underway.
An even larger center for performing arts will soon be built in Bentonville.
2014 saw the opening of The Walmart ArkansasMusic Pavilion (AMP) in neighboring Rogers. As AMP is an open air venue, shows are limited to the warmer months.
The biggest and possibly the best cultural setting is the dazzling Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville. It opened November 11, 2011 to great fanfare and continues to amaze and enthrall all who visit. The permanent collection is open for viewing at no charge thanks to a $20 million endowment from the Walton Family Foundation.
An exciting exhibition now on display is called The State of the Art and represents the work of current artists from all over the country. To make this exhibit, the curatorial team visited over 1000 artists nationwide and logged over 100,000 miles. The result is nothing short of stunning in terms of variety and quality of the arts today, as gathered in the exhibit. But you’d better hurry—it only runs through January 19 of 2015.
Another ambitious project of the museum was to dismantle a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and move it piecemeal from New Jersey to the museum grounds, where it is being re-built and restored. And a further project under construction is a children’s museum called the Amazeum.
Some other upcoming temporary exhibitions Crystal Bridges plans 2015 include:
Van Gogh to Rothko: Masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
February 21 through June 1, 2015
Some of the featured artists in this exhibit are Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Joán Miró, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Game Fishes of the United States
April 4 through August 10, 2015
This classic collection elegantly conveys the drama of sport fishing and highlights the exploration and celebration of nature in American art.
July 4 through October 5, 2015
This exhibition from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh will explore the artist’s surprising, lifelong engagement with nature.
July 25 through October 5, 2015
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and will examine Jamie Wyeth’s distinctive approach to realism over the course of six decades. It will feature the artist’s portraits of subjects such as his wife Phyllis, John F. Kennedy, Rudolf Nureyev; and Andy Warhol.
Once-quiet, agricultural Bentonville has become a destination for art lovers. Most of the changes would have been unthinkable a few years ago. With the population of NW Arkansas currently about 500,000 and expected to reach a million people by the year 2025, these assets are welcome and appreciated.
And the impetus for the cultural creations can be credited in large part to the Walton Family Foundation and Sam Walton’s daughter Alice Walton.