Wal-Mart Money Brings Art And Architecture To An Art-Starved Part Of The Country

Featured on forbes.com

Until 2011, the reason to travel to Bentonville, Arkansas was to do business with Wal-Mart. But now, the town in the northwestern corner of the state is home to one of America’s great art museums, the first major art museum to open in the United States since 1974. 

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art gives us a compelling reason to travel to Bentonville. Located just a block from downtown, it is the brainchild of Alice Walton, the daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. A life long art collector, she launched the project in 2005, and the museum opened to the public in 2011.

For its location, she chose a ravine in a 120-acre piece of land owned by her family; for the design, she turned to Moshe Safdie. The Israeli/Canadian/American architect first came to international attention with Habitat 67at Montreal’s Expo 67. The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museumin Jerusalem, Israel, and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort are among his more recent projects. His main office is located in Somerville, MA.

Safdie designed Crystal Bridges as a series of arch-roofed pavilions that appear to float above two ponds at the bottom of the ravine. Additional structures are nestled into the steeply sloping terrain on either side; they contain galleries, classrooms, a library, a lecture hall, and curatorial and administrative offices.

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