My son’s class had a private tour/class at Crystal Bridges, America’s foremost museum of American Art, in Bentonville, AR today. The museum’s architecture and landscaped grounds are world class: “stunning” in a word. The museum opened last November as a gift to the American people from Wal-mart heiress and philanthropist, Alice Walton. It truly is amazing to have this internationally recognized “gallery” so close to home.
More impressive than the physical beauty of the architecture, grounds and works of art, is the top notch staff that has been hired. Each person we encountered were professional, helpful and happy you were there. Our docent was “Miss Beth”, a newly graduated student of history from the U of A, who still could not believe how lucky she was to have this fantastic job right out of college. She was so personal with the students, calling them by name, engaging them in meaningful conversation about 4 selected pieces of art chosen for the tour of “Conflict in America". I didn’t get a chance to write down all of the pieces that they studied, but the theme focused on what Americans were going through and thinking about during certain key times of history…the Spanish-American Conflict, the great depression and the Civil War. We had the entire museum to ourselves before opening time, and the kids were asked to sit on the floor, grab the clipboard and pencils and focus on the first work they evaluated, “Plowing it Under,” by Thomas Hart Benton. It’s not a story about slavery, but a story of share cropping, “plowing under” the crop because of the low demand for expensive food in the great depression era. It made us all really think…what a waste!
Funny thing about their “classroom” experience…they sat in front of “Plowing it Under,” and never paid attention to the one directly over their heads…the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” by Norman Rockwell!
This was pre-walk…miles of trails!
The view from the top of the trails at the overlook…
a good rest was needed by all for the trip back down the trail to the museum…but what a trip that was…
because we bumped right into Ms. Crystal Bridges herself, Alice Walton! I recognized her chatting to a lady on a bench and thanked her for this tremendous gift to our country and how wonderful to have it in our “backyard!” Would she mind if we introduced her to the children…”that would be fine”…would you consider a picture with them? “Of course I want my picture with them!” she replied. She was engaging and charming with the kids and she wanted to know what were their favorite pieces of art in the museum. They asked her the same and she said she was kind of fond of “Kindred Spirits” by Asher B. Durand for which she paid more than $35 million dollars from the New York Public Library in 2005.
Our gang and the richest woman in America!
She asked the children if they noticed the large statue of Pinocchio and told them that she purchased it from a friend who is president of a big bank in New York City. He displayed it where all of his employees would see him daily to remind them not to steal or tell lies at work or else their noses would grow!
Michael and Alice Walton…
and more buddies enjoying time with her!
Hmmm…she’s quite the dude magnet!!
It was a wonderful day with great kids, their principal, teachers and parents who have spent the past 7 years going on field trips together! A+ for the experience!
Check out the video below!