Crystal Bridges is open Wed. through Mon. with free, timed tickets required.

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Crystal Bridges is open Wed. through Mon. with free, timed tickets required.

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Learn More >
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Opening Doors to Art Exploration


A while ago I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Jeff Koons (creator of the recently acquired Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta), now on display in Crystal Bridges’ restaurant) for the upcoming issue of C magazine, the publication for Members of Crystal Bridges.  Koons is a real advocate for the accessibility of art and the importance of being true to your Self (capital S) in art and in life. Something he said about experiencing art really resonated with me.  He said:

“Art can be something which can make people feel insecure. It can make them not trust in themselves and to feel as though the art is something which is above them…instead of that they are perfect and that there is no place for judgment, and that the art happens inside them. They don’t have to come prepared at all for an experience about artwork—for any form of transcendence— you don’t have to come prepared with anything.”

"Doors," by South Korean artist Choi Jeong-Hwa.

“Doors,” by South Korean artist Choi Jeong-Hwa.

I like this because it affirms every individual person’s ability to experience, appreciate, and enjoy art, no matter what your personal level of previous experience or art education. Art is an open door anyone can walk through. That act in itself then often presents more doors for you to explore. Say, for example, you really like a certain painting—so you’re naturally curious about who the artist was; or maybe you want to know more about the time period in which it was created; or perhaps the style of art is different from anything you’ve ever seen and you want to know if there are other artists working in that style.

BOOM!  Three new doors to open, and worlds to explore!  All you have to do, really, is show up at the artwork, and follow your own personal interests. (Koons has some cool stuff to say about this, too, but I don’t want to give away too much of the interview.)

One of the important parts of Crystal Bridges’ mission is to “encourage engagement between people and works of art.”  As part of that mission, we offer a whole host of programming that offers “doors” to our guests to encourage their exploration of American art.

Interpretation Manager Aaron Jones conducting a Gallery Guide class.

Interpretation Manager Aaron Jones conducting a Gallery Guide class.

One of these is our Intro to Art, or Art 101 series:  a lecture-based class that introduces participants to a range of different ways of thinking about and experiencing the art in our collection.  It’s a class in Art Doors, if you will.

Thanks to the magic of modern technology, these Art 101 programs are now available to everyone via the Internet and iTunes U.  We now have three Art 101 classes, led by Interpretation Manager Aaron Jones, available to experience for free on our iTunes U site: 1)     Elements and Principles of Art and Design:  Explores what art is, how we look at art, and why artists do what they do. 2)     Art Basics with the Crystal Bridges Collection: An exploration of Medium, Movement, and Genre within the Museum’s artworks. 3)     America’s Most Innovative Artists:  A survey of American artists who explored new frontiers in art. Many of these artists were key leaders in sparking new artistic styles.

Aaron has a very engaging style and loves what he’s talking about, so each session is lively and interesting, no matter what your background or experience.  If you’re interested in exploring a few more doors in the large and rambling mansion of Art, I’ll encourage you to tune in to Art 101 and start the adventure!  Here’s a link to the series. Have fun!

Coming Up: The next Art 101 series begins on June 4 and focuses on natural history in contemporary art.  This three-session series will be led by the University of Arkansas’ leading expert on contemporary art, Associate Professor Alissa Walls. She’ll be talking about present-day artists using the visual traditions of natural history, as well as connections between these artists and historic artists in Crystal Bridges’ collection.  It promises to be yet another interesting and engaging program!

PSST:  The image above of Choi Jeong-Hwa’s artwork Doors came from here.  Which may open an art door for some readers… 😉

Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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