November 13, 2011
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Arkansas the first week of November. It was awesome to be a part of this great celebration.
The first day, Saturday, we drove out to see our sculpture, A Place Where They Cried, in all of its Fall finery along the biking/walking trail. Jerry and I sat on the meditation bench and hailed a jogger to take this shot.
Don Bacigalupi, Director of the Museum told me that night that I had many new fans!
That evening was the formal dinner and the opening event of the week long celebration. The drive down the road curving through the Ozark forest to the architectural gem nestled in the ravine finishes at a giant stainless steel windblown tree…the entry sculpture by Roxie Paine. We were greeted by Alice Walton, founder, and Don at the entrance and took this picture
before taking an elevator down to the gallery levels. There, we stepped into Moshe Safdie’s masterpiece of design and engineering.
The place is a series of buildings, more like some new species of forest creature than architecture. Made of glass, wood, steel and stone it curls into the Ozark woods that gave it birth. This perfect child stretches its limbs and caresses the surround.
Two of those arms are buildings that span large ponds, part of the stream that meanders down the ravine (and right past our sculpture.) These buildings are also dams that control the water and one of them was the site of the dinner. I gazed out the windows across the pond to the other bridge/dam/building on one side and down a level to a curving gallery on the other. This place was still under construction and throughout the evening men were working on large bull dozers…a nice counterpoint to the two musical groups, one outside and one inside.
One of the highlights (literally) was the skyscraper cake it’s verticality competing with the dominant horizontal impression of the evening.
We shared a lovely evening, visiting with old friends, meeting new ones. Laura Bush was there, gracefully moving through the crowd, and the Governor of Arkansas. There was a large contingent from the East Coast arriving in limousines, dazzling in the latest fashion…black was definitely the color of the evening. There was a delicious buffet dinner and tours of the beautiful galleries throughout the evening. We spent our time in the early American art and saved the rest for our other visits later in the week. Alice Walton has collected some masterpieces here.
The next event was Monday night, a cocktail party for about 700 people, once again glittering in fabric finery. The main event here was in the Great Hall that looks out over one of the ponds. There was a big band orchestra playing dance music and a buffet supper. This evening we met many Arkansas friends and some old Texas ones. There were many compliments about our sculpture. We spoke with Moshe Safdie, the architect, who is a kind and friendly person. When I told him I was writing a description of the Museum, he gave me his card and said, “Send it to me.”
We toured the Contemporary gallery with its astounding collection of recent art. Don has been very busy adding to the museums acquisitions. I hope the reader will visit the Museum website www.crystalbridges.org and see the glorious art I am referring to. The spaces are large and the collection beautifully uncluttered with plenty of breathing space. After that we sat in the entry lounge where mini desserts were served on tiny square plates, each a small bite of sugar exploding in your mouth.
Wednesday afternoon we had a timed preview ticket, given out to those who became early members. Every half hour 200 people were admitted and Jerry and I finished touring the buildings. The remaining galleries are in three buildings on two levels, some of which have marvelous glass windows bringing the outdoors in. One sees beautiful scenes of streams, low waterfalls, forest, grass and sculpture. Although ours cannot be viewed from there, it is just around the corner on the path.
We toured the nineteenth century art and then the twentieth. It is a long loop around the pond through the building/dams, roofed like armadillo shells in burnished copper that gleam as the sun slides down the ravine into darkness. We emerged at the café, one of the armadillo constructions, and stopped for a glass of wine.
At seven we attended a “conversation” between Alice Walton and Moshe Safdie in the Great Room. The microphones needed some help so our sight wandered to the workers outside on a very steep slope, installing large trees. Four to five men were wrestling twenty foot trees into their planting place and it was exciting as the trees kept rolling downhill. We hope to get the CD of the presentation so we can fill in what we missed of Alice and Moshe’s conversation. We ended the evening at the Museum Shop and purchased the collection catalogue in which A Place Where They Cried is mentioned but no image…a small disappointment.
But no disappointment this experience, which will remain one of the highlights of my career. Such an honor to be a part of all of this, and we are forever grateful to Don and to Alice for their support.
It is awesome to be in Vermont imagining our thirty-five stone “people” move through the Ozark forest on their “Trail of Tears”.