We believe art is the difference between merely existing and being truly alive.

Alice’s Wonderland, a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum


The Gibbes’ Fellows members had an Arkansas adventure to “Alice’s wonderland.” With their fine details and accompanied by Gibbes Executive Director, Angela Mack and Private Events Manager, Jena Clem, our group journeyed to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum founded by Walmart heiress, Alice Walton! Many of us discussed the global reach of Walmart and how its suppliers impact the community. At the chic 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville green penguins greeted us with a basketball hoop tree sculpture, generating many smiles!

Green Penguins at 21c museum hotel
Green Penguins at 21c museum hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas

The evening exposed the Gibbes’ group to the superb collection of American folk art in the handsome home of private collectors, Becky and Bob Alexander. The juxtaposition of an expressive Edgefield face jug with a nuanced New Hope George Nakashima bench and Native American textiles reflected an edited, personal evolvement from their earlier collection of advertising pieces. Later that night we had a private dinner at 21c and the trio of table rounds at the hotel dinner were framed by great conversation with new friends and interesting art!

trails at Crystal bridges
Woodland Trails surrounding Crystal Bridges

The woodlands approach to Crystal Bridges was a wonderful prelude to the clarity of the catenary curves of architect, Moshe Safdie’s structure.  Alice Walton’s vision of architecture spanning ravine ponds and streams was astounding to experience!  Our arrival at Crystal Bridges was met with the movement of a striking kinitic sculpture by George Rickey  and the welcoming words of Director Rod Bigelow.

Curator Mindy Besaw then relayed her American art expertise as we walked through the galleries.  I was taken by the luminous wall of Martin Johnson Heade’s “Sixteen Gems of Brazil“and the brilliant jewels of tropical exoticism!  A highlight of our lunch was a visit from the gracious and grounded Alice Walton, who stopped by to say hello.  We then enjoyed The Albright Knox Museum’s VAN GOGH TO ROTHKO exhibit with rare insight provided by Angela.

crystal bridges curator led tour
Curator led tour of the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges

The late afternoon saw many of us seeking the Crystal Spring (the natural spring for which the Museum is named.) and perspectives of the Frank Lloyd Wright house (currently being reassembled from a New Jersey site).  Thoughts of Fallingwater surfaced… (A National Historic Landmark house, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, that was built over a waterfall.) Though Bear Run may have Bentonville beat with volume of water, Arkansas aced Pennsylvania with access-for-all in rural regions to vivid art.  Sculptures of Robert Indiana to James Turrell (Love to light!) enhanced gardens to crystal grotto.

A stroll through the town of Bentonville revealed a festival setting up on the square and the facade of the original Walton’s.  An ode to the finesse of Sam Walton as merchant with his sharp focus on all facets of marketing and customer relations, family photographs relayed how much only-daughter-Alice has her mom’s features. What a magical legacy the Waltons wrought! We concluded with a lovely dinner at James at the Mill overlooking a historic mill.

Culturally-rich Charleston captivates post-Bentonville as our Gibbes Museum of Art coalesces!

Shannon Gillespie, Gibbes Board Member and Guest Blogger

Published May 7, 2015

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