One of America’s Best Free Museums Is Expanding

This article is part of our daily Regional Highlights series which features unique businesses, attractions and events around the South (outside of Georgia.)

Do you know Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas?? It was founded in 2005 by the Walton family, and opened in 2011. But this is no ordinary museum.

One of America's Best Free Museums Is Expanding
Expansion renderings courtesy of Crystal Bridges

It’s nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The 200,000 sq ft facility includes a collection that spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day. 

And (my favorite) a rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds. There is also a restaurant, gift store, library, and 5 miles of art and walking trails.

Plus, USA Today named the museum one of the top free museums in the country!

But here is the news!

A decade after opening, the museum is working on an expansion that will increase the galleries, create more space for educational programming, and foster new community engagement opportunities.

The additional 100,000 sq ft is a 50% addition that will allow the museum to showcase its growing collection and welcome more visitors to experience the power of art, in an inclusive environment. 

The relationship between the building and its natural surroundings promotes an accessible experience that expresses their vision of creating an environment of belonging. Design highlights include:

  • Increased gallery space (by 65 percent) will allow the museum to present art with two new galleries while also adding to existing space for temporary exhibitions and offering new spaces for community displays.
  • More educational spaces and a dedicated floor with community gathering areas, art studios, maker spaces, and flexible facilities will engage creators of all ages and abilities.
  • A new bridge connecting two galleries could add non-traditional space for art that is not sensitive to light. With floor-to-ceiling views of the natural surroundings, it will offer spaces for reflection and gathering, including a new café.
  • A circular event plaza will increase opportunities for outdoor community programming and performances.

“In its first 10 years, Crystal Bridges has catalyzed economic development in Northwest Arkansas by transforming the region into a destination for tourism and enhancing the quality of life for our residents,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of Northwest Arkansas Council. “The museum’s expansion will open opportunities for artists and creatives and provide access to more world-class art in our community.”

Make a plan to visit Bentonville soon – the expansion should be completed this year! Make a road trip or grab a direct flight from Atlanta on Delta.

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One of America's Best Free Museums Is Expanding