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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Opens Knowing the West This Fall

New, traveling exhibition celebrates the American West as culturally rich, complex, and reflective of diverse voices

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — On September 14, 2024, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will open Knowing the West, the first major traveling exhibition to embrace the American West as more inclusive, complex, and reflective of the diverse peoples who contributed to art and life there. Co-curated by Mindy Besaw, Crystal Bridges’ curator of American art and director of research, fellowships, and university partnerships, and Jami Powell (Osage), associate director for curatorial affairs and curator of Indigenous art at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, the exhibition presents more than 120 historic works by Native American and non-Native American artists, including textiles, baskets, paintings, pottery, sculpture, beadwork, saddles, and prints.  

Whether informed by lived experience or popular culture, Americans often feel they “know the West.” Knowing the West honors and expands these impressions. 

“This exhibition recontextualizes historic artwork, encourages deeper exploration of a familiar topic, and celebrates the rich cultures that reflect the complexity of the American West,” said Besaw. “Art of the West is so often presented in simplified and binary terms – such as ‘cowboys and Indians’ – which does little to embrace the multiplicity of artists and communities in the West. But Knowing the West goes beyond this typical scenario, showcasing works by Dorothy Brett, Grafton Tyler Brown, Chiura Obata, Nellie Two Bear Gates, and many more artists who have been historically overlooked and underrepresented.” 

By exhibiting artworks in a variety of media and by including makers from many nations and experiences, the exhibition aims to question and flatten existing hierarchies within American art. In fact, this approach can serve as a model for how to re-think and re-present American art broadly.  

“Throughout the development and planning for this exhibition, we have prioritized the display of works by Native American artists – and particularly works by women – not only to celebrate the depth, breadth, diversity, and dynamic nature of Indigenous art of the West, but to demonstrate the significant impacts of Indigenous creative expression on the formation of the United States more broadly,” said Powell. “In focusing on narratives and ways of knowing that may be unfamiliar to some audiences, the exhibition aims to expand rather than replace existing impressions of the West.”  

On view through January 27, 2025, Knowing the West will travel to two additional venues and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated book published by Rizzoli Electa on September 10. Much like the exhibition, the publication will center Native voices and multiple perspectives through a series of essays by more than 20 authors: curators, curatorial advisors, and scholars. 

To commemorate the opening of Knowing the West, Crystal Bridges will host an opening lecture with the exhibition’s co-curators and members of the Curatorial Advisory Council on September 13. A festival celebrating the American West will take place on September 14, followed by a week of fall break family-centered activities, school tours of the exhibition, and special programming focused on the many styles of dance in the West. 

Knowing the West is on view at Crystal Bridges from September 14, 2024, through January 27, 2025. Tickets to the exhibition are $12 for adults. Tribal citizens, museum members, SNAP participants, Veterans, and youth 18 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased on the museum’s website. For more information on the exhibition and related programming, please visit the exhibition webpage. 

The exhibition will be on view from March 26, 2025, through August 31, 2025, at Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida; and from May 2, 2026, through August 9, 2026, at North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina.  

Knowing the West is supported by a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by Terra Foundation for American Art. The exhibition is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, Christie’s, Goldman Sachs, Becky and Bob Alexander, Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry, Rhonda and Harrison French, Brenda and Willie Godwin, Hachem Investments, Valorie and Randy Lawson | Lawco Energy Group, Esther Silver-Parker, Sarah and Jeff Teague | Citizens Bank, Susan and Jim von Gremp, Andrea and Jeremy Wilson, Deborah Wright, and Shari and Lamar Steiger.    


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this announcement, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

The Terra Foundation for American Art, established in 1978 and having offices in Chicago and Paris, supports organizations and individuals locally and globally with the aim of fostering intercultural dialogues and encouraging transformative practices that expand narratives of American art, through the foundation’s grant program, collection, and initiatives. 



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 12.2 million visitors across its spaces, 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 418,375 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 the Momentary in Downtown Bentonville (507 SE E Street), conceived as a platform for the art, food, and music of our time. In 2026, Crystal Bridges will complete a nearly 100,000 square foot expansion that will allow the museum to expand access for all. For more information, visit The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.

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