On the second anniversary of the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the museum announced today a major new initiative for 2014. Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi and Assistant Curator for Special Projects Chad Alligood have been traveling across the country, visiting over 400 artists’ studios to date and witnessing one of America’s greatest strengths: the remarkable diversity of its artists and their individual perspectives. These multiple and distinct voices form the core of a new exhibition, State of the Art, debuting at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on September 13, 2014, and featuring works by more than 100 artists selected from the team’s extensive research and travels. Disparate in geographic location and diverse in background, these exceptional artists are nonetheless united by their innovative engagement with the issues of contemporary life. State of the Art promises to showcase the astonishing spectrum of artwork being produced in studios across the United States at this very moment. The exhibition will be on view at Crystal Bridges through Jan. 5, 2015.
“All art is contemporary when it’s created, and speaks to the time and place in which it was made,” said Bacigalupi. “Great art can inspire introspection, conversation and even action. We see it throughout our history and we’re seeing it today. By examining a wide range of works by contemporary artists from across the country, we can all gain insight into our nation as a whole: our challenges and concerns, as well as what uplifts and inspires us.”
“Focusing on contemporary art provides the opportunity to enable our guests to engage in ways not possible with art of the past,” said Alligood. “The artists themselves will lend their voices to share, explain, challenge and contextualize their work in this exhibition. By highlighting the voice of the artist, we will give our guests unprecedented insight into the artists’ practice.”
In curating the exhibition, Bacigalupi and Alligood will have traveled to virtually every region of the country, ultimately meeting with artists in dozens and dozens of cities and towns across America. The pair began their research by reaching out to curators, gallerists and thought leaders in each region, who helped identify some 10,000 promising artists across the United States. From that group, Bacigalupi and Alligood developed a priority list of more than a thousand artists to visit, logging hundreds of hours of studio conversations before establishing the final checklist. “We’ve come to recognize that many extraordinary artists may be known in their own locales, but have yet to emerge on the national stage. Their work, however, deserves consideration from a national audience,” said Alligood.
“On our nationwide journey, our goal has been to discover artists whose practices are informed by history and tradition, but are decidedly of our time,” said Bacigalupi. “We’ve been most impressed with works that marry technical virtuosity with visual splendor and intellectual engagement. These artists have something powerful to say, and have devised truly effective means of communicating with the public.”
Founder and board chairwoman Alice Walton said of the effort: “I received a note from a fifth-grade student from Fort Smith, [Arkansas], named Stephanie, who wrote after her visit to the Museum, ‘Before, I looked at art as just something someone painted on a canvas. But now I look at it as something someone put their feelings into and made it from their heart.’
“I want everyone to see contemporary art through the eyes of the artists,” she said. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
The resulting exhibition will be displayed throughout Crystal Bridges’ galleries, as well as activating public spaces and beyond, occupying approximately 15,000 square feet and outdoor spaces as well. The exhibition will be juxtaposed with Crystal Bridges’ historical collection, providing a unique opportunity to highlight America’s artistic heritage and tradition, as well as underscore the connections between past and present.
Temporary exhibitions at the museum typically have an admission fee. However, to ensure that this exhibition is accessible to all, Walmart and Sam’s Club have provided a major grant to sponsor the cost of public admission to the exhibition. This grant is in addition to the $20 million endowment from Walmart, which has sponsored free admission to the permanent collection galleries since the museum opened on 11/11/11. “With this grant, Walmart has ensured that all of the areas where State of the Art will be exhibited will be open and accessible to every visitor,” said Bacigalupi. “This removes any cost barriers to participation and allows the exhibition to offer exciting opportunities for insight, education and conversation to everyone.”
Opened on November 11, 2011, Crystal Bridges welcomed its one millionth visitor this past summer, including some 28,000 school children who have visited the museum as part of the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit Program. State of the Art will complement the museum’s emphasis on educational outreach, offering a rare opportunity to focus on the work and voices of artists from across the country. Public programs will include bringing select artists to the museum for lectures, gallery talks, workshops and classes, as well as school programs, which will include tours, teacher professional development and homeschool offerings.
Technology will also play a role in sharing State of the Art with a broad audience. Crystal Bridges’ iTunes app will offer worldwide access for viewing the artwork and listening to artist and curator commentary. The museum’s website, blog, YouTube channel and other social media channels will help to expand the conversation as well.
“The role of the arts in education is a subject near and dear to my heart,” said Walton. “Crystal Bridges recently announced the results of a major study conducted by the University of Arkansas showing the positive educational impact of a culturally enriching field trip. With State of the Art, our goal is to share the power of art with even more children and families of multiple generations, highlighting artists, issues and launching conversations. We welcome all to come enjoy this experience.”
About Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. We explore the unfolding story of America by actively collecting, exhibiting, interpreting, and preserving outstanding works that illuminate our heritage and artistic possibilities.
Opened to the public on 11-11-11, Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. Philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton chairs the Museum’s board of directors. Since its opening, the Museum has welcomed more than one million visitors and garnered more than 7,900 households in its membership. More than 28,000 schoolchildren have taken part in the Museum’s Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program.
The Museum takes its name from a nearby natural spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two spring-fed ponds house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall. Guest amenities include a restaurant on a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the ponds a Museum Store designed by architect Marlon Blackwell, and a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material. Sculpture and walking trails link the Museum’s 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.
Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton, each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution. In addition to historical works, the Museum’s collection also showcases major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, James Turrell, and Georgia O’Keeffe, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the full scope of American art. The permanent collection, which will grow over time, is on view year-round and is further enhanced by an array of ongoing temporary exhibitions.
Crystal Bridges offers year-round programming for all ages, including lectures, art-making workshops, films, gallery talks, and special events. An award-winning app available free from iTunes features audio tours of current and past temporary exhibitions, and many of the Museum’s lectures and gallery talks are included in Crystal Bridges’ iTunes U site, which also features interviews with curators, artists, and conservators. In addition, Crystal Bridges offers professional development for teachers and educational programming for K-12 school groups designed to fit with Common Core standards.
Additional information about Crystal Bridges is available online at CrystalBridges.org.