A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Just because billionaire Alice Walton was raised in the hills of Arkansas does not mean she is the wrong person to build a great museum of American art.
Just because her museum will be located in Bentonville and not on either coast does not mean that Americans will be deprived of beloved historical paintings.
Those who knitted their eyebrows at the news that a first class museum of American art would arise in the Ozarks might want to consider this: Bentonville has an airport. They can use it.
New York art critics who beat their breasts over losing Arthur Durand's Hudson Valley masterpiece “Kindred Spirits” to the boonies (one writer said Walton had “raided” the New York Public Library to get her hands on it) should take a look around at the art looted from abroad in their own museums.
And those who criticize Alice Walton because the money she's investing in art derives from her interest in the world's biggest and often-criticized retailer should consider: How many fortunes that helped build the nation's museums were made in a socially laudable way? Do they avoid the Whitney because of Mrs. Whitney's mother-in-law's ties to Standard Oil? (Should we shun the Arkansas Arts Center, once propped up by Winthrop and Jeannette Rockefeller, for the same reason?)
Two years ago, Alice Walton, 58, formally revealed her plans to build a $50 million museum for the public on her family's own 100-acre woods north of the Bentonville town square, and fill it with American artwork worth many times the building's tab.
At the time, she made public eight of the 100 or so works she'd bought for the museum: the Durand, Charles Wilson Peale's portrait of George Washington, Winslow Homer's “Spring,” Charles Bird King's portrait “Ottoe Half Chief,” and paintings by John La Farge, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Marsden Hartley and, yes, Norman Rockwell. The particular paintings portrayed less about the museum than did architect Moshe Safdie's plans for the building, a modernistic glass and wood structure that will straddle a pond created from the waters of Crystal Springs and other tributaries on the property. Even the name of the museum — Crystal Bridges — was criticized for suggesting, one blog said, the name of a strip tease artist. Another made nasty remarks about “Walm-Art,” predicting jigsaw puzzles of “Kindred Spirits” in the aisles of the discount store and an art collection that would wave the red, white and blue with yellow smiley faces tucked in here and there.
Crystal Bridges director Bob Workman — the former director of the Amon Carter Museum of American art in Fort Worth, not too far from Walton's home in Mineral Springs — laughs at the suggestion the collection will be purely patriotic. “We didn't buy the Willard,” he says, referring to Archibald Willard's “Spirit of '76,” which sold at auction last November.
What they have bought is a closely held secret, and Workman, probably the happiest museum director in America, has a gleeful, canary-swallowing grin when he talks about its unidentified treasures.
Here's what Workman will say: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will engage Bentonville and beyond with some of the best examples of American art in public hands, bolstered by related artifacts to add context and historical depth. The collection will have “big surprises,” Workman said, that, like “Kindred Spirits,” will be a major draw.
Chastised for loving her state and country! Left will b left.
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