What No One Ever Told Us About Art Museums

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What no one told us about art museums

And why Arkansas should be added to your summer travel list

You know I’ve been mad gushing over our little town over on Instagram , and it’s long overdue that I spotlight this slice of heaven we call home. So pardon me for a hot minute while I share one of the unexpected reasons we fall hard for this place on the daily. Because when you have all the things of a major city, while getting to dabble in nature and the cost of living allows you actually LIVE, you know you’ve hit the JACKPOT!

Bentonville, Arkansas, may not be on your radar for travels this summer, but as a local gal I’ve got a must-see that will leave you living your best life, as the cool kids say—especially if you actually have to bring some of those cool kids along with you.

Boasting the headquarters of Wal-Mart, this town is nestled in the hills of the Ozark Mountains and brings people from around the world seeking employment with the multi-billion dollar corporation. With such a diverse population comes some really fun interests and offerings in what might otherwise be just a small, rural town in the South. Specifically the newest American Art Museum that breaks all the expectations of what immersion in art looks like is a real gem in the area.

Crystal Bridges American Art Museum is unlike any art museum I have been to. From the children friendly spaces to the mixture of traditional and modern art exhibits to the 120 acres of trail systems surrounding the property, Crystal Bridges seems to center around the inclusion of all people—from the art connoisseur to the amateur.

Experiencing art outside on the trails echoes the museum’s mission to incorporate nature and include all types of visitors

Experiencing art outside on the trails echoes the museum’s mission to incorporate nature and include all types of visitors

  1. The building itself is a work of art

The museum itself is a work of art with its natural light pouring in everywhere you turn and a courtyard surrounded by water, clearly displaying its desire to interact with the Ozark Mountains its surrounded by. The vast American art permanent collection is always free to the public, including world renown artist Chihuly scattered throughout the trails and even in the water of the courtyard.

Chihuly in the water surrounding the property that can be seen from the numerous windows throughout the museum

Chihuly in the water surrounding the property that can be seen from the numerous windows throughout the museum

The architectual design allows you to view outdoor exhibits from indoor and on the trails outside

The architectual design allows you to view outdoor exhibits from indoor and on the trails outside

2. Art doesn’t have to be intimidating with the right tour guide

I also visited some of the visiting exhibits that require a ticket, but are well-worth the experience! The Nature’s Nation exhibit is inside the museum, and while it is a more traditional art experience, the art itself is diverse, ranging from artifacts from Frank Loyd Wright’s homes to the photography of Dorothea Lange. And while I am admittedly not an art expert and often feel intimidated trying to decipher the artist’s meaning in a piece, our inviting and welcoming tour guide broke down each piece in such a way as to help us understand the artist’s purpose in representing nature throughout history. This exhibit runs until September 9, 2019, so if traveling here this summer, make sure to stop in before it’s gone!

Nature’s Nation is a temporary exhibit with a wide variety of mediums curated to explore the progression of nature throughout the U.S.’s history

Nature’s Nation is a temporary exhibit with a wide variety of mediums curated to explore the progression of nature throughout the U.S.’s history

3. Art can be PLAYED with

No doubt it’s the Color Field exhibit that I enjoyed the most, however. This contemporary exhibit is found all over the outdoor walking trails and is truly an engaging experience. From the bright colored inflatable pieces that you can TOUCH (yes, I said TOUCH) to the oversized wind chimes that you can ring to a rainbow color grid that you can watch change to grey at sunset, you feel truly free to PLAY here. This makes it the perfect experience to include the whole family in. Children move about the trails and get their wiggles out through sensory stimulation, ensuring it’s an experience the whole family enjoys.

Color Field exhibit is a temporary exhibit for the summer of 2019 and such a unique experience to engage with art outdoors

Color Field exhibit is a temporary exhibit for the summer of 2019 and such a unique experience to engage with art outdoors

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4. Museums can be FUN!

The day to day of Crystal Bridges is enough to add this American museum to your must-do summer travel list, but if you happen to be visiting on a Saturday in the summer, don’t miss the Forest Concert Series on the trails! This magical experience includes live music immersed in the trees under twinkle lights. My husband and I brought our goldendoodle, put up a couple of folding chairs, and relaxed under the canopy of trees as music filled the air. No coolers are allowed into the concert, but there is a food truck with yummy food and alcoholic beverages. This is absolutely another family friendly event that parents and children alike adore, or it makes the perfect unique date night like we had with our pup! Check out the rest of the summer concert series events this year here, but even if you don’t recognize any of the bands playing, the outdoor concert experience in the forest is worth the trip.

Your friendly four legged friends are welcome on the trails and for the summer concert series in the North Forest

Your friendly four legged friends are welcome on the trails and for the summer concert series in the North Forest

5. Museums can be kid-friendly & delicious

Other areas I loved poking my head into included the creation area for children to make art, as well as the museum’s exemplary restaurant, Eleven, that is on site with gourmet and unique foods.  Our entire weekend at Crystal Bridges felt enlightening and unique, while still casual and family friendly—a combination that is hard to find when traveling with a family!

Gourmet food on site at the museum’s restaurant,  Eleven

Gourmet food on site at the museum’s restaurant, Eleven