Crystal Bridges One Year Later
Nestled in over a hundred acres of woods in northwest Arkansas sits Crystal Bridges, an art museum that opened last November. Visitors have come from all over America and the world to view the American art it displays.
Alison Nation, the project coordinator for the museum’s communications division, has been working with Crystal Bridges since before it opened and has been able to witness all of the changes the museum has gone through.
In just one year, Nation said there have been almost 600,000 visitors and over 7,500 new members.
“It’s become something beyond my expectations,” Nation said. “Working here for a few years, you have an idea of what it will be like, but we didn’t really expect it to be as successful as it has been, or for people to like it as much as they do, or come from so far away to see it.”
Nation said the museum is always changing. In addition to their permanent collection being moved around and rotated out, temporary exhibits change throughout the year, so there is always something new to see.
Right now there are two exhibits on display. “See the Light” is based around the concept of light in art, and “Moshe Safdie: The Path to Crystal Bridges” is a showcase of four buildings designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who designed Crystal Bridges. In March, there will be a Norman Rockwell exhibition on display.
Another important aspect of the museum is the nature that surrounds it.
“I think it really enriches our guest experience,” Nation said of Crystal Bridges’ natural surroundings. “The woods around the museum are so beautiful, and I think they draw a more well-rounded group of guests. People will come here and go hiking and then go to the museum. Just like the exhibitions are changing, the scenery along the trails is always changing with the different seasons. There’s always some new tree or plant to discover.”
Nation’s favorite part of her job is working with the staff and volunteers, who are all really passionate about what they are doing. She also loves working in an environment where she can be around what she loves.
“I have a background in art,” Nation said. “I love to look at art and make art. I think it’s one of the key aspects of living. It’s definitely exciting to be able to help be a part of bringing art to everyone.”
Nation’s favorite works in the museum are in the contemporary section. She also really loves the “See the Light” exhibition and the Experience Art studio, which is a hands-on exhibit where participants can make things and play games about works in the collection.
For college students who would like to be more involved with the museum, there is a new program called Crystal Bridges College Ambassadors for Art. It is a group that will meet monthly to converse about art, history and culture. There will be a different topic each month, and events for the group to be a part of. Students can go online to crystalbridges.org to apply.
Crystal Bridges has extended their closing hours to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday nights, making it easier for students who take classes during the day to make it out to the museum. Also, the admission into the museum is sponsored by Wal-Mart, so it is always free to see the permanent collection.
Looking toward the museum’s future, Nation has high hopes for what Crystal Bridges can become for the community, and she is grateful for how much it has done already.
“I hope a lot more people in northwest Arkansas make it a part of their lives and take advantage of what we have to offer,” Nation said. “I think it’s great to have something major like this to round out our region. I think we’ve hopefully helped a lot of people who haven’t been to art museums very often have that chance.”