The front-line staff at Crystal Bridges, such as Guest Services and Protection Services associates, are the lucky staff members who get to interact with the Museum’s guests on a day-to-day basis. Often these guests have traveled long distances to visit the Museum, and they are often eager to tell these folks how much they have enjoyed their visit and sometimes to share a little bit about their journey.
Sally Clifton, a Guest Services associate, brought one such family to my attention a few weeks ago. The O’Brien Family— Patrick, Christine Jack, and Finn—from Paynesville, Missouri. They had come to Crystal Bridges specifically to view the Jamie Wyeth exhibition. But that was only the last leg of an epic Wyeth-themed vacation the family had been enjoying through the weeks ahead. The family was kind enough to share some details of their journey, as well as some photographs. We thought you, our blog readers, might be interested in the family’s Wyeth-focused summer vacation, which might even inspire you to plan your own art-themed journey!
The O’Briens’ adventure began with a trip to a little town in Maine called Owls Head, from which they could venture out to a number of nearby locations. They visited the Farnsworth Museum, where they saw several of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings, including Bronze Age, which depicts a large bronze bell that once served as the fog signal on neighboring Manana Island. It was replaced by a steam-powered horn and was discarded along the seaside, which is where Wyeth painted it in 1967. In 1972, the bell was moved to nearby Monhegan Island and permanently installed outside the Monhegan Museum of Art and History.
“It was always interesting to me to see where painters created their art work,” Christine explained. “So when we saw the painting of Jamie Wyeth’s bronze bell, Patrick and myself just knew we wanted to see where that setting was. Therefore, Monhegan Island was a must this summer.”
Monhegan appears in many of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings. He owns a house there, which once belonged to the artist Rockwell Kent, and he has depicted many views of the island, and of some of its inhabitants. The place holds a very special allure to Wyeth, and the O’Briens felt the same way.
“That Island has something so mystical,” Christine said. “It’s like a little jewel that you want to keep a secret and enjoy all to yourself.”
While on Monhegan, the family visited many points pictured in Wyeth’s works, including the bronze bell and the distinctive rocks at Lobster Cove, and they might even have gotten a glimpse of Wyeth’s house as they were crossing from Monhegan to Manana Island. Also while they were there, the family learned about an upcoming retrospective exhibition of Wyeth works at Crystal Bridges.
“We couldn’t believe it and knew that we had to come see the exhibition to make our summer vacation even more meaningful,” Christine said.
So, from the Atlantic coast of Maine, the family made their way down to Northwest Arkansas to visit Crystal Bridges in July, and explored the Jamie Wyeth exhibition as well as the Museum’s permanent collection.
“After our visit to the Museum we simply couldn’t decide which [of the Wyeth paintings] were our favorites,” Christine said. “Finn was certain it was Kleberg, while Jack just couldn’t stop laughing about Aunt Carolyn receiving the mail. Patrick and myself found a huge liking in all the Nureyev drawings, especially the one with the purple scarf. Although The Islander is now my screensaver—I love it! We spent eight hours at Crystal Bridges and loved every minute of it—time just flew by. The Wyeth exhibition was a fantastic ending to our summer vacation. Thank you, Crystal Bridges!!”
So what are your ideas for an art-themed vacation?