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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art debuts The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, featuring 100+ images from the 1950s to today

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the opening of The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, on view February 27 through May 30, 2016. The exhibition includes more than 100 images and features the work of 19 photographers on the move across America from the 1950s to today. Organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, The Open Road debuts at Crystal Bridges and represents the museum’s first large-scale photography exhibition.


“It’s an honor to be able to debut The Open Road to our visitors,” says Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Executive Director Rod Bigelow. “Road trips are a way of life in our region, and capturing the experience by taking photos during those trips is a familiar activity for most of us. The opportunity to explore road-trip photography through significant works of art is one we know our visitors will appreciate and enjoy.”


The Open Road presents the story of the American road as inspiration, including iconic elements such as roadside motels, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, and theme parks, as well as conveying everyday America. The images provide offbeat and personal reflections of the photographers’ journeys, completed between 1955 and 2014, including the people they encounter, car culture, roadside attractions, and more.


Photographers featured in the exhibition include Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Garry Winogrand, Inge Morath, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, Jacob Holdt, Stephen Shore, Bernard Plossu, Victor Burgin, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Todd Hido, Shinya Fujiwara, Ryan McGinley, Justine Kurland, and Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. Together, these photographers elevate the snapshot—often taken through the window of a moving car—to a work of art.


“Photography has impacted American visual culture and artistic practice since the invention of the camera,” says Crystal Bridges Director of Curatorial Affairs Margi Conrads. “The Open Road offers a great variety of photographic approaches to subject and technique, through the lenses of some of America’s most influential practitioners as well as international artists.”


Photographer Stephen Shore once declared that, “Our country is made for long trips.” Ever since cars became widely available, the road stretching over the horizon has represented a sense of possibility, freedom, discovery and escape—a place to get lost and find yourself in the process. The road trip remains an enduring symbol in American culture. It appears prominently in literature, music and movies, but it has had an especially powerful influence on photography. The Open Road explores the photographic road trip as a genre and America as a resource.


“Along with the images in the galleries, we have added ways for our visitors to discover the artistic process behind the work they see,” says Crystal Bridges Curatorial Assistant Ali Demorotski, who curated the exhibition’s installation at the museum. “We have included some of the different camera formats and films used by the photographers, as well as a cropping activity to explore the impact of including or excluding information from an image. Beyond photography, our visitors will also discover how the road has been an inspiration to authors, musicians, and filmmakers—weaving together a rich and diverse experience.”


Additional Resources complement the exhibition at Crystal Bridges:

  • Exhibition Map and Family Guide: A brochure, designed for all ages, which serves as a road map of the exhibition and provides activities that encourage an in-depth look at the works of art.
  • Share Your Road Trip Photos: Visitors can add a photo of a favorite road trip to a digital map in the exhibition by posting an image through Twitter or Instagram and tagging the location plus #OpenRoadTrip. 
  • Public Programs: Crystal Bridges will offer more than 30 programs related to the exhibition, ranging from art talks and photography workshops to culinary and Museum Store events.
  • Exhibition Tours: Mondays and Thursdays, 1 to 2 p.m.  Enjoy a cruise through the temporary exhibition with one of Crystal Bridges’ knowledgeable Gallery Guides at the wheel. This tour will look closely at the photographs of five or six significant artists in the exhibition and discuss the photographers’ road trips plus how these experiences influenced their work.
  • The Open Road at Crystal Bridges’ Library: Visit the museum library to find more views of the highways and byways of America in catalogs celebrating photography of the American landscape. Books collecting work by The Open Road artists such as Inge Morath, Stephen Shore, Lee Friedlander, and Ed Ruscha will be available for reading in the library throughout the exhibition. Rare artist books by Ed Ruscha, including Twentysix Gasoline Stations, will be on display in the library exhibit case from mid-April to mid-June, and will be the focus of a special Great Reveal public program on March 30 and April 1.
  • Open Road Museum Store: A satellite location of Crystal Bridges’ main Museum Store will open adjacent to the exhibition, and include books, gifts, memorabilia, postcards, and more. A hardcover catalog accompanying the exhibition will be available as well, and is the first book to explore the photographic road trip as a genre.
  • Enjoy Road-Trip Tunes: Visitors to The Open Road exhibition can pick up a Spotify playlist featuring well-loved songs of the road. The playlist was created with the help of Crystal Bridges’ social media followers, and includes road-trip themes such as “King of the Road,” “On the Road Again,” and many more. Click here to listen. (A free Spotify account is required.)

General admission to the temporary exhibition is $10 and free to members and youth ages 18 and under.  Admission is also free on Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., thanks to exhibition sponsors. Non-flash photography is welcome for personal, non-commercial use. #CBOpenRoad

The exhibition is sponsored at Crystal Bridges by Coca-Cola, Stout Executive Search, and ConAgra Foods.


This exhibition was organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, with David Campany and Denise Wolff, curators. This project is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. After its debut at Crystal Bridges, the exhibition will travel to Detroit Art Institute, June 17 – September 11, 2016; Amarillo Museum of Art, TX , November 4, 2016 – January 1, 2017; Museum of Fine Art St. Petersburg, FL , February 11 – June 4, 2017.



About Crystal Bridges
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. We explore the unfolding story of America by actively collecting, exhibiting, interpreting, and preserving outstanding works that illuminate our heritage and artistic possibilities.

Opened to the public on 11-11-11, Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. Philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton chairs the Museum’s board of directors. Since its opening, the Museum has welcomed more than two million visitors, and garnered 9,000+ membership households. Some 110,000 school children have participated in the Museum’s Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. More than 250,000 visitors a year utilize the Museum’s 3.5 miles of walking trails.


Crystal Bridges takes its name from a nearby natural spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two spring-fed ponds house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall. Guest amenities include a restaurant on a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the ponds, Museum Store designed by architect Marlon Blackwell, and a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material. Sculpture and walking trails link the Museum’s 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Norman Rockwell’s  Rosie the Riveter, and Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola [3]— each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution—as well as major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, John Baldessari, and James Turrell. The permanent collection, which continues to grow through a strategic acquisition plan, is on view year-round and is enhanced by an array of temporary exhibitions.


Crystal Bridges provides year-round programming for all ages. including lectures, performances, classes, and continuing education for K-12 teachers. An award-winning app, available free for both Apple and Android devices, features audio tours of current and past exhibitions, and many of the Museum’s lectures and gallery talks are available in Crystal Bridges’ iTunes U site. A new initiative to develop high-quality distance-learning opportunities for students and teachers is underway.


Crystal Bridges also offers two research fellowship programs. The Tyson Scholars in American Art program supports full-time scholarship in the history of American art. The Reese Teacher Fellowship provides for research into the development of interdisciplinary connections between American art and core curriculum subjects of language arts, history, social studies, and the sciences. Additional information about Crystal Bridges is available online at