Skip to main content

Crystal Bridges Launches Community Arts Gallery With Free Focus Exhibition Dear Friend

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art today announced a new space to showcase the museum’s arts-based community projects, promoting social connection, dialogue, and community perspectives. The new Community Arts Gallery will open to the public on July 1 with Dear Friend, a free, focus exhibition by artist Leah Grant featuring a selection of large-scale reproduced letters written by local community members. 

In 2022, as part of the museum’s CB to You Mobile Art Lab program, Grant facilitated creative writing workshops in community partner sites throughout Northwest Arkansas. Participants were invited to write an open letter to a friend during the workshops. With the permission of the community members, the artist recreated some of these letters at large scale for public display. Grant uses hot foil stamping to highlight specific words that resonate with her to create a new message within the letter, encouraging different communities to experience both intimacy and healing in public spaces.    

Dear Friend is adapted from a previous project I created where I wrote a series of open letters to a close friend in which I reflect on the current state of my mental health and the challenges I face while trying to be transparent with those around me,” said Grant. “This installation is very special to me – I wanted to share my experience with others and give them the same opportunity to heal through the vulnerability of putting their own thoughts and words on display.” 

Dear Friend is the perfect exhibition to guide the creation of the Community Arts Gallery in a meaningful and responsive way, and we’re grateful for Leah and the entire team’s commitment to making this a reality,” said Sara Segerlin, director of community engagement at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “The gallery provides a dedicated space to spotlight local artists and community leaders who are working to energize and inspire the community through various creative projects. Research shows that art and social connection raises morale and improves quality of life, so we’re thrilled to continue to deepen community engagement through this new space.”  

Dear Friend is on view at Crystal Bridges through November 27. Guests can view the exhibition for free; tickets are not required. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on July 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the new gallery. The reception is also free and open to the public.  

To learn more about Dear Friend, visit here 

To download press images, click here 


About Leah Grant 
Leah Grant uses collage techniques and images from a personal archive to recontextualize her experiences by revealing and/or concealing the vulnerable parts of her identity. Grant considers herself an Artist in The Multiple because she utilizes printmaking, photography, writing, audio, and video in her art practice. Grant’s currently focuses on curating and exhibiting in partnership with local organizations and museums to facilitate community projects that build intimacy in public spaces. Grant has a BFA from Henderson State University and an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas School of Art. She is based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

About Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed more than 6.2 million visitors, with no cost for admission. Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 as a non-profit charitable organization by arts patron and philanthropist, Alice Walton. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 300,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and five miles of art and walking trails. In February 2020, the museum opened a satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville called the Momentary (507 SE E Street). For more information, visit The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.