I’m Here to See Rosie
A few weeks ago I was asked if I would like to take a mid-week trip to Northwest Arkansas and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I said no. Crikey. Of course I said “yes I’d love to”.
Reviews on TripAdvisor use words like “wonderful, amazing,inspiring, a must see, incredible”. I was expecting it to be beautiful.But what I found was not what I expected.It was so much more.
When we arrived in the early afternoon, I dropped the man off for his work function and immediately headed for the museum. I was there in time to look around a bit, gather some maps and join a group for a guided tour entitled “Strong Women”. Considering that the painting I most wanted to see was Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, I thought the tour would be a great way to start my education on the contents of this wonderful collection. I was right. But I found that instead of Rosie being the highlight of the tour, I was enthralled, entranced, mesmerized by so many other pieces. I was lost.I might have spent too long studying Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s The Bubble and possibly even longer at Janet Sobel’s Heavenly Sympathy.
Unlike some museums or galleries, this building is all about space and light. In between the closed art galleries are long halls of glass and plenty of areas to sit and enjoy a conversation away from those concentrating on the collection. They’ve even included bookshelves stacked with art books and stations for online art library searches. It seems they’ve gone a long way to make people comfortable.I wish I’d had time to sit longer in one of these spaces.
I found my way out onto the grounds with about 30 minutes to spare before I would have to leave for the day. Within 30 seconds of walking out that side door, I knew I had to come back. The grounds are magnificent, the stonework incredible.
So the following morning at the bright hour of 8:30 a.m., knowing that the museum doors did not open until 11, I parked the truck with the mountain bikes loaded on the back, and set off down the trails armed with my iPhone app for the museum showing all the trail maps and a backpack for my camera and water bottle. For close to 3 hours I jogged and walked loops around the museum, stopping only to take a few pictures, to stare at a beautiful tree (or 3) or to admire some of the art along the Art Trail.
Several times during the morning I found myself at this spot. I couldn’t run past it without stopping. I don’t know when I’ve been more moved by a piece of art, especially a piece of outdoor art that wasn’t a natural formation.
This installation is titled A Place Where They Cried. I will admit that I almost did myself. Pat Musick and Jerry Carr’s tribute to the suffering of those traveling the Trail of Tears might be my new favorite piece of artwork that doesn’t reside inside my house already.It gave me a strange mixture of peace and aching.
By 11:30 I was ready for lunch so I met my husband at the museum’s restaurant, Eleven. We had a nice meal together, service with a smile, good choices and reasonable prices considering other museum restaurants I’ve been to. I was able to go back through the museum with him to show him a few of my favorites and let him show me a few of his. And then we decided it was time to get the bikes off the rack and ride. And so we did.The trails around the museum connect to the pedestrian/cycling path that runs through Bentonville and it also let us ride up to the Slaughter Pen mountain bike system (all 3 phases) and to the Free Ride Track without ever getting out on the road.Awesome.
Progressive Trail Design built a track alongside the paved Ped/Cycle path behind the museum complete with stone and fallen tree “skinnies”. I didn’t ride them all but I tried a couple. I’d like to go back and ride them all next time. It’s named the All American Trail, a gateway trail for beginners that lets riders try their hand at berms, stone armored rollers and boulder causeways. Gateway trail, like a gateway adrenaline drug for mountain bikers. I get it. I whooped at the bottom. And giggled. A lot.