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Views of Crystal Bridges Brings a New Lens to the Museum's Collection

By Will Watson, Content Strategy Intern

Aerial view of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

“Crystal Bridges is a way to explore and experience the connections between art, architecture, nature, and well-being– in all senses of that word– in a space that is truly and uniquely alive.” – Alice Walton


Portrait of woman with butterfly at her neck and white flowers in her hair
Rosa Rolanda, Autorretratro (Self-Portrait), 1939, oil on canvas, 15 3/4 × 11 3/4 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2021.4.

More than a decade ago, Alice Walton saw a need for connection and growth here in Northwest Arkansas. Born from these needs, Crystal Bridges has evolved into a space for all to explore art, architecture, and nature—and the unfolding story of America.

Views of Crystal Bridges, published in 2022 following the museum’s 10th anniversary, revisits the collection through a new lens to reveal the inclusive and accessible experience of the museum. The guide features a series of compelling essays, taking the reader on personal and thematic journeys through the collection, welcoming inspiration and connection.

Contributors from the museum’s board and the curatorial team chose to view the collection thematically. The thirteen essays in this catalog cover a captivating assortment of topics, ranging from the representation of bodies in art to the “unbounded potential” of paper as a medium.

Board Chair Olivia Walton writes, “At Crystal Bridges, we often ask ourselves, ‘Who’s missing from the story?’”

Historically, prominent art institutions excluded women from education, professional training, and exhibition opportunities.

In her essay A Work of Her Own, Olivia Walton aims to “help write women back into art history and elevate their voices.” Through careful examination of works from a varying range of notoriety and time periods, Walton highlights women artists’ persistence and their impact on American art and identity.

In his essay Labor in America, curatorial assistant Victor Gomez explores another fundamental American theme. Gomez shows how American artists illuminate the nation’s histories of slavery, industrialization, and the “American dream,” and how their work can inspire reflection on subjects ranging from autonomy and the working class to American ideologies.

Crystal Bridges’ collection is grounded in significant depictions of American history. In her essay History Today, curator Mindy N. Besaw explains how these works initiate dialogue within the galleries and encourage critical conversations about art, history, and representation. Besaw compares historical and modern works and the shifting roles of artistic agency, asserting that American art maintains relevance through the “potentiality of these narratives.”

The positive impact of Crystal Bridges on Northwest Arkansas is clear, but what about other regions of the United States?

A sculpture of five men wearing coats and hats standing in a
2015.16 George Segal, 1924 - 2000 Depression Bread Line, 1991 Plaster, wood, metal, and acrylic paint George Segal, Depression Bread Line, 1991, plaster, wood, metal, and acrylic paint, 108 x 148 x 36 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2015.16. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

In the essay Expanding Access to American Art, Abby Heromsilla and Ashley Holland showcase the work of the Art Bridges Foundation. Art Bridges is a partner organization founded by Alice Walton in 2017 to create and support programs that expand access to American art in regions across the nation. Through robust loan programs, traveling exhibitions, programming, and other initiatives, Art Bridges works to impact communities and nurture a new generation of art lovers.

You Belong Here neon sculpture
Tavares Strachan, You Belong Here, 2020, blocked-out neon with transformers, 25 1/2 x 78 ft. The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, MO.2020.1. Photography by Stephen Ironside.

Views of Crystal Bridges highlights the growth of the museum over a decade and how it continues to create access to an expansive presentation of American art and culture. Notably, the 2020 opening of the museum’s satellite space the Momentary embraced the contemporary arts as a touchstone for connecting with our present, considering our relationship with the past, and looking to our future. With these aspirations in mind, the author of Views of Crystal Bridges celebrates Crystal Bridges, in the words of Chief Curator Austen Barron Bailly, as a place for “belonging, for inquiry and joyful learning, and for connection.”

Get your copy of  Views of Crystal Bridges from the Museum Store today! Available for purchase in-store and online.