Across the field from 8th Street Market, a former cheese plant scrapes the skyline of downtown Bentonville. Walking inside, the building’s history is present in the exposed industrial pipes and concrete structure. But this once industrial building is now known as the Momentary, a dynamic, innovative, multidisciplinary space that will celebrate the art and music of our times.
As the Momentary’s opening date draws nearer, years of work are being realized. Spearheaded by Olivia Walton, chairperson of the Momentary Council, along with her husband Tom and brother-in-law Steuart Walton, the idea for this contemporary art space was conceived through an ambitious vision of economic opportunity, cultural expansion for Northwest Arkansas, and inspiration from their aunt Alice.
Earlier this year, the Northwest Arkansas Council reported that the region’s growth increased 18.6 percent since the 2010 Census, with Bentonville leading the four largest cities of the region. With growing companies and the announcement of Walmart’s new home office, it is anticipated that more and more people from around the country will be calling Northwest Arkansas their home in the decades to come, particularly millennials, the largest generation in the US workforce.
Millennials as a generation have been identified as experiential consumers, people that want to spend their time on experiences, rather than things. They take a very broad view of arts and culture, a view that includes music venues, great food, outdoor experiences, and unique places to hang out: in sum, the Momentary.
“It’s important to us that young professionals come here to chase quality of life just as much as they come here to pursue professional opportunity.”
– Olivia Walton, chairperson of the Momentary Council
Quality of life can be defined in many ways, but it ultimately measures a subjective level of happiness among individuals in a community. According to the Walton Family Foundation’s 2018 Quality of Life study, 95 percent of residents reported being “happy” or “fairly happy,” and there was a significant increase in attendance across key arts and culture amenities. With the support of the Walton Family Foundation, Olivia, Tom, and Steuart Walton are leading the charge to elevate the area’s quality of life by bringing more arts opportunities to Bentonville through the Momentary.
“Our commitment to cultivating arts and cultural experiences provides more opportunities for education, engagement, and enjoyment in our region.”
– Tom Walton, Home Region Committee chair
The Momentary will continue Northwest Arkansas’s cultural journey through art, music, and food that unites the hobbies and interests of community members from various backgrounds and experiences. The artists and performers featured at the Momentary will also reflect the diverse complexity of the community and the nation.
There are several contemporary art spaces around the world that are easy to admire. One of the big inspirations for the Momentary is MoMA PS1 in New York. An affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1 is an exhibition space that displays contemporary art, music, and performance programming. MASS MoCA, located in North Adams, Massachusetts, is another inspirational contemporary space that was converted from a factory into a museum, similar to the Momentary’s adaptive reuse project.
Positioning the Momentary in downtown Bentonville offers the opportunity for people across the community to convene in a central location that is accessible by the Razorback Regional Greenway. It also allows folks the opportunity to engage in cultural experiences together in a space that is welcome to anyone with curiosity and a thirst for new experience.
History and culture happen in the moment. It’s happening now. And now. And now. This concept became the idea behind a space that would focus on art, music, and performance that are being created in the present moment. Thus, the Momentary was born.
“The name is a play on the word ‘contemporary,’ and the idea of being in the moment. It also speaks to that fleeting quality found in music and performance.”
– Olivia Walton
Just as MoMA has an affiliation with MoMA PS1, the Momentary, similarly, is a satellite of Crystal Bridges. Contemporary art will be featured at both locations, such as will be the case during State of the Art 2020, but with its unique space and focus, the Momentary will be able to push boundaries and keep their fingers on the pulse of new trends and voices in the art world today.
Inspired by their aunt Alice Walton and the trail she blazed in founding Crystal Bridges, Olivia, Tom, and Steuart recognized that Crystal Bridges helped open doorways for exploration of the arts in the region. “The Momentary would never exist if it wasn’t for Crystal Bridges,” said Olivia Walton.
Since its opening in 2011, Crystal Bridges has welcomed over 4.5 million people through its doors from all over the world and from all walks of life to experience the power of art and the beauty of nature in a natural setting. By witnessing how Crystal Bridges became a cultural arts destination bringing tourism and new audiences to Bentonville, it was clear that there was room for growth, experimentation, and new opportunities to expand arts access in Northwest Arkansas.
Following in the footsteps of Crystal Bridges, the Momentary will also offer free general admission, courtesy of Walmart, and will strive to be as accessible as possible to allow all to enjoy the space and programs. Both locations are connected by a 1.5 mile-long stretch across the Razorback Regional Greenway.
Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago was hired in 2016 to take on the adaptive reuse project. Lead architect Calli Verkamp has been leading the charge to not only ensure that the building would be able to support its new purpose, but that the process would also have little carbon impact on the environment. The Momentary features sustainable elements, such as the creation of a bioswale, which turns and cleans rainwater running down to the creek.
In 2018, Lieven Bertels was hired as the Momentary’s director. “Northwest Arkansas is such a welcoming region for creative professionals, with the perfect mix between a unique, regional identity, and global connectivity,” said Bertels. “Moving here for this project was a no-brainer!”
In 2018, Lauren Haynes was named the curator of visual arts at the Momentary, a role she serves dually alongside being the curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges. Pia Agrawal came on board in 2019 as the curator of performing arts, responsible for leading the research and planning of performance seasons.
Each of these individuals is responsible for bringing today’s artists and performers from around the world to Bentonville, always keeping the experience different and fresh for visitors. They currently work as part of a small but growing team who are solely dedicated to the operations and programming of the Momentary, along with a variety of teams at Crystal Bridges supporting the development of the satellite space.
Would you like to be part of the Momentary’s growing team? Check out our Careers page to apply for open positions!
The Momentary’s first moment is approaching fast. When it opens on February 22, 2020 with its opening festival, TIME BEING, and its first exhibition, State of the Art 2020, it will offer communal spaces for guests to work, play, and engage in discussion, including open gallery areas, theater and concert spaces, a black box theater, an Onyx Coffee Lab, outdoor seating and a festival stage on the Momentary Green, and a Tower Bar overlooking Bentonville.
The Momentary Green will offer spaces for people to relax, work, or meet with others outdoors and enjoy nature. Outdoor single and multi-day music festivals will be held on the Green, and it will also feature interactive sculptures with water features.
The Tower Bar, inspired by 1960s airport lounges, will be a social space offering wine, beer, craft cocktails, and bar snacks in the evening, accompanied by stunning views overlooking the natural beauty of Bentonville. Momentary members can enjoy the bar during the day with coffee and snacks.
Additionally, the Momentary’s artist-in-residence program will allow visual artists from around the world and working in different media to take up residence in one of three studio spaces and work on new projects right in the middle of the Heartland.
There are many ways to live in the moment and enjoy a high quality of life in Northwest Arkansas, thanks to the ever-growing focus on the arts at places like the Momentary. If you find yourself yearning to be part of the cultural conversation, you know where to go.
The Momentary’s founding funders are Walton Family Foundation, Walmart, RØDE Microphones, The Coca-Cola Company, and Tyson Family Foundation.