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As the final month of the exhibition nears, State of the Art becomes highest attended exhibition in Crystal Bridges’ three-year history

State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now has attracted more than 127,000 visitors since opening on September 13, making it the most viewed exhibition in the museum’s three-year history. (The day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2014, boasted the highest daily State of the Art attendance to date with 3,700 visitors.) State of the Art will remain on view until January 19, 2015 with complimentary admission, sponsored by Walmart and Sam’s Club.

In 2013, the curatorial team traveled 100,000 miles to nearly 1,000 studios all over the country in search of artists in communities large and small. The result is State of the Art, a one-of-a-kind exhibition that features 102 artists and 227 artworks ranging from works on canvas and paper to photography and video to installation and performance art, and more. The exhibition examines how today’s artists are informed by the past, innovating with materials old and new, and engaging deeply with issues relevant now. It occupies 19,000 square feet of museum space, in addition to installations on the museum grounds and in downtown Bentonville.

State of the Art has captured the national spotlight with media coverage including a CBS Evening News story and was named one of the ‘15 Best Art Exhibitions of 2014’ by Huffington Post.

Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow said, “State of the Art is exceptional in terms of the curatorial approach and also represents the largest exhibition since we opened the museum in 2011. It’s been rewarding to see the way guests are connecting and sharing the stories and ideas from the exhibition. As a new museum in the middle of the country, we have a unique vantage point in which to tell the American story. State of the Art is an important part of that narrative, providing a broad look at current artworks within the context of our five centuries of American art, and inspiring conversations about issues that affect us all.”

In conjunction with State of the Art, Crystal Bridges hosted The Summit: Insights from a Changing America with policy-makers, thought-leaders, artists, and museum professionals from around the world. Speakers and panelists included President Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Darren Walker, Maya Lin and eight State of the Art artists, who spoke on topics such as art and the environment and the future of museums. Recorded video and audio from the Summit sessions are now available on YouTube and iTunes. The State of the Art Symposium presented another forum for extending the conversation; geared towards educators, advocates, local artists, and the general public, the forum also included 14 State of the Art artists. The Symposium linked national and local views to the artists’ role in community and science. Audio and video content from the Symposium will soon be available as well.

“From the very beginning, our primary goal was to find artists engaged with community, their viewers, and issues that make up our everyday lives. We found them. From Andy DuCett’s interactive Mom Booth to Works Progress’s Water Bar, art lies in the encounter, in the experience, in the feeling of being changed,” said Crystal Bridges Curator Chad Alligood. “Graciously, many of the artists participated in video interviews, panel discussions, workshops and demonstrations—all with the goal of connecting our audiences to the work in deeper and more meaningful ways.”

Since the exhibition opened, more than 50 of the artists have returned to the museum for educational programs, workshops, art talks, demonstrations, or discussions. Thousands of participants have enjoyed nearly 60 State of the Art programs, learning directly from artists such as Pam Longobardi, who studies the impact of plastic on the environment, or Alberto Aguilar who offered a multi-generational family workshop. Innovative tools such as kiosks, digital labels, and a State of the Art app help break down barriers to contemporary art, making the work more accessible and relevant with insights into the art-making process and connections to the museum’s permanent collection.

Upcoming State of the Art events include “Hair to There: Weaving Tales and Textiles,” a spotlight lecture with Sonya Clark (recipient of this year’s ArtPrize Grand Prize award), on December 19, a live art performance and youth and adult workshops with Vanessa German, January 9-11.  State of the Art will culminate with a dance party, art forum, and art talks leading up to the closing. On January 18, Curator Chad Alligood will present a final State of the Art lecture and share reflections on the exhibition.

“It has been gratifying to introduce this broad spectrum of artists to our visitors, and we welcome all to experience State of the Art before it closes on January 19,” said Bigelow. “This is just the beginning of the conversation–a call to action to seek out artists who live and work all over the country. As for the next phase, some of the works will stay at the museum, some of them will go back to the artists, but we expect State of the Art will have a life beyond Crystal Bridges. There are no definite plans yet but we’re looking at many opportunities.”