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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces Director and Plans for New Arts Venue


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the appointment of Lieven Bertels as director of an innovative arts venue under development in downtown Bentonville.  The venue, newly named the MomentaryTM, is an adaptive reuse project that will transform a decommissioned Kraft Foods plant south of Crystal Bridges into a multi-disciplinary space for visual and performing arts and an artist-in-residency program.

Bertels will join the Crystal Bridges leadership team in late September as director, after an international search guided by Arts Consulting Group. Bertels will be responsible for all activities related to the Momentary, including planning and development for the facility as well as artistic direction and day-to-day operations. Prior to joining the Momentary, Bertels was the CEO and cultural director of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 European Capital of Culture, a year-long festival in the Netherlands focusing on the arts in a rural context. From 2011 to 2016, he was the festival director for Sydney Festival in Australia. Under his stewardship, Sydney Festival garnered acclaim for its diverse artistic offerings and enjoyed wide public support. From 2010 to 2016 he served on the board of directors of the International Society for the Performing Arts in New York, and in 2013 was made Knight in the Belgian Order of the Crown.  From 2004 to 2011, Bertels served as artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, The Netherlands’ oldest and largest arts festival.  From 2001 to 2004, Bertels held the position of inaugural artistic director for Concertgebouw in Bruges, Belgium, where he wasresponsible for overseeing the planning, grand opening and programming for the first three years of the new campus.

Full bio and headshot of Lieven Bertels available here.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lieven to Northwest Arkansas,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director & Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. “Along with international arts experience and a history of successful leadership, he brings a strong background in performance art and fresh ideas about ways to expand the cultural impact of the arts in our region and beyond. His work in Leeuwarden, at Sydney Festival and in Bruges demonstrate his ability to advance projects that are culturally transformative.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to connect the Momentary to the mission and welcoming spirit of Crystal Bridges, while exploring its own unique identity and role,” said Bertels. “The Momentary is poised to be an international destination that demonstrates how contemporary American art and artists intersect with daily life around the globe. The Momentary will push boundaries of creativity, blur urban and rural lines, and provide access to arts-based experiences in a comfortable and well-designed social space. This is a truly exciting project not just for the region but for arts communities at large.”

The arts venue was named the Momentary as the result of fieldwork and research conducted by FÖDA, a brand consultancy and design studio based in Austin, Texas. “Dismantle the word ‘contemporary’ to its Latin roots and you get with or thoroughly and lasting or serving for a time only. The word momentary speaks to that same fleeting quality found in music, in performance, food, exhibitions, etc.,” said Jett Butler, creative director of FÖDA. “It’s a word that is ephemeral enough to grow into—to evolve with the art and the programming—and yet The Momentary is resonant, it signals confidence in an atypical art program.”



The Momentary is currently in the design development phase with new, exterior building renderings available here. The site work is scheduled for early 2018, followed by improvements and landscaping beginning in late 2018, with a goal of opening in early 2020.

Wheeler Kearns Architects, based in Chicago, is overseeing the adaptive reuse project. The firm is committed to maintaining the building’s industrial integrity, while creating maximum flexibility and use.Planning is underway to identify programmatic needs and adapt spaces to include galleries, studio space for artists, a small black box theater, an amphitheater, studio kitchen, café, bar, and flexible indoor and outdoor community gathering areas.  By keeping many of the industrial elements and original finishes of the building, the public spaces will feel distinct, yet comfortable and modern.


Additional consultants include:

  • Landscape Architect: Howell & Vancuren, Tulsa, Okla.
  • Civil Engineer: McClelland Consulting Engineers, Inc., Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti, Chicago, IL
  • Acoustic Consultant: Threshold Acoustics LLC, Chicago, Ill.

 The Momentary is located at the edge of the Bentonville Arts District and emerging Market District, near the former Tyson Foods building that has been converted into the 8th Street Market and houses the newly opened culinary school, Brightwater. The Momentary adjoins the two districts and is conveniently situated on the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile trail system connecting the northern and southern ends of the region, to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

The project will be supported by the Walton Family Foundation as part of its mission to help Northwest Arkansas become one of the best places to live in the nation. The development of the Momentary is a continuation of the family’s commitment to make art accessible in the heartland of America, and continues in the vein of founding Crystal Bridges as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy.

“Art is transforming lives in Northwest Arkansas by opening our minds to new ideas and cultural experiences that bring people together,” said Tom Walton, chair of the Walton Family Foundation’s Home Region Program. “The Momentary will create a space that inspires not just artists, but the entire community as well.”

Bigelow adds, “The Momentary will connect people of all ages through collaborations, programs, and exhibitions, and will be an extraordinary addition to the burgeoning downtown Bentonville arts scene. Similar to Crystal Bridges, the new venue seeks to offer access for all and meaningful arts experiences. While Crystal Bridges provides a deep historical context within a museum setting, the Momentary will have a more experimental feel and encourage visitors to participate in the ongoing conversation and artmaking process—all toward the goal of extending the story of American art in an international context, right up to the moment.”

For updates on the Momentary and news on the museum, follow Crystal Bridges on the Blog, Facebook and Twitter.