Crystal Bridges provides a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature—a surprisingly easy feat given the sometimes overwhelming natural beauty that exists around the region.
When I first moved to Northwest Arkansas back in 2010, I didn’t know what to expect—some rolling hills, the occasional stream… cows? I had no idea that I had inadvertently settled in one of the most beautiful areas in the country.
Among Arkansas’s greatest gems is the Buffalo National River. Located just about an hour and a half from the Museum, the Buffalo River extends roughly 150 miles between the Boston Mountains and the White River. With crystal clear water, towering bluffs, and incredible waterfalls, the river is truly breathtaking—so much so that Congress designated it as America’s first National River back in 1972.
As fate would have it, the exquisiteness of areas like the Buffalo River in many ways triggered Museum Founder and Board Chair Alice Walton’s love of art.
“As a child, my mother and I painted watercolors of nature during our travels to our country’s magnificent national parks,” she explained. “When I discovered the great masters of American art history and their watercolors, I understood the wide gap between what I could do and what our greatest artists have achieved. It made me want to live with their inspiration, and that’s what I began to collect.”
These early acquisitions were recently featured in the exhibition At First Sight: Collecting the American Watercolor. Among Ms. Walton’s favorites is a 1968 watercolor by Thomas Hart Benton depicting the Buffalo River.
Ms. Walton described the image: “That happens to be our favorite family camp site. We have jumped, our whole family, off that bluff thousands of times…”
Thomas Hart Benton also frequented the Buffalo River. As a child, Ms. Walton even saw him there on occasion, usually with a fishing pole in hand.
The Buffalo River is just one of many natural attractions in Northwest Arkansas. There’s Hobbs State Park with over 12,000 acres of Ozark landscape set along the southern shore of Beaver Lake; there’s White Rock Mountain, an incredible vista located in the heart of the Ozark National Forest; there’s Devil’s Den State Park with its many caverns and trails. The list goes on.
All of these wonderful places serve as a reminder that art and nature truly do go hand-in-hand. Nature has the power to bring people together, to trigger new interests, and to inspire. So, take a page from Alice Walton’s book: step outside and go exploring!
Listen to Alice Walton talk about At First Sight and the Buffalo River on iTunesU.