Crystal Bridges Art Museum

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 02-07-2012

For more and larger photos, visit freshare’s Crystal Bridges Gallery

Featuring a story about an art museum may seem unusual for an outdoors website, but Crystal Bridges is anything but typical for an art museum. Designed to blend into the 120 acres of wooded grounds on which it is built, the museum is surrounded by creek-fed ponds, woods and wetlands. A generous measure of glass brings nature into view throughout the building.

While an icy wind robbed us of any bravery for walking the hiking paths, we’re looking forward to a second visit during milder weather. The grounds include native-plant gardens sprinkled along 3.5 miles of trails that wind near creeks and streams. Several art pieces adjacent to the pathways beckon walkers who can choose either hard-surfaced or soft-surfaced trails.

The building itself is a masterpiece of design with striking curves and heavy wooden beams. Reflecting pools and glass walls soften massive support structures that anchor the building while appearing as architectural art themselves. At the main entrance, a steel tree stretches limbs skyward along with a nearby grove of hardwoods.

Inside, Crystal Bridges is spacious, with clean lines. Walls painted in earthy tones encourage a theme of bringing the outside inside. Visitors can rest or gaze at the art from benches placed near the center of the exhibit rooms; within reach while still leaving the space uncluttered. 

Artwork is distinctly American, covering periods from pioneer days through modern times. Rosie the Riveter and the Arkansas Traveler both find homes on Crystal Bridges’ walls. Near the end of the tour, the Wonder World exhibit features several mixed media pieces including Room by Allison Elizabeth Taylor, featuring walls of carefully constructed wood veneers, and Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2 by Evan Penny, a mesmerizing and very realistic bust of an aged artist.

A library, store, and a restaurant called Eleven highlight the museum’s amenities. Eleven is open for lunch every day that the museum is open, and for dinner on Wednesdays and Fridays. Lunch includes salads, wraps, sandwiches and Ozarks-style beans and cornbread. Dinner includes appetizers such as pumpkin spiced soup, and entrees that include sea bass, shrimp and grits, or pan-seared chicken.

While you could certainly stop in at Crystal Bridges just to explore the trails and outdoor exhibits, the museum is something that should not be missed. Admission is free. Bring your camera as photographs are welcomed, provided you do not use flash.

Depending on your mode of transportation—car, airline,hike or bike—there are plenty of ways to reach Crystal Bridges. The physical address is 599 Northeast J Street, Bentonville, Arkansas: a short jaunt from I-540, or an even shorter one from Bentonville’s town square. Enter the address in maps on Google or Bing to find the museum, then plan a visit some time soon. For more information, visit