With nothing better to do, we drove to Arkansas on Tuesday. Over the last several months we had read news reports about Alice Walton and the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. A quick glance at Google maps showed that Bentonville was an easy day's drive away, so why not go see for ourselves?
After a lesiurely and pleasant six-hour drive up US 75/69 to I-40 then north on I-540, we were in Bentonville by 4 p.m. I didn't know what to expect, it being the World Headquarters of Walmart, AKA (An) Evil Empire, but the quaint central plaza and the surrounding town square were a surprise. Lots of benches, a fountain, charming shops and restaurants, and the original Walton's 5-10 (now made into a shrine to Sam Walton), what could be nicer?
We planned on spending a few hours at the museum on Wednesday but ended up staying there all day save for a break at dinner.
The buildings and grounds are amazing; we were in awe at what the Walmart billions have created. We ooh-ed and aah-ed at the architecture and enjoyed views from different levels and perspectives. Outside the museum is a beautiful park with lots of trails and elaborate landscaping; inside there are comfy chairs in cozy nooks and plenty of restrooms.
The collection itself is a bit mixed. There are quite a few good pre-Revolution and early U.S. pieces, a few delightful Sargents, and a smattering of other intriguing works, but there's a good deal of humdrum stuff, too. This is not humdrum:
This sculpture by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth is also quite lovely:
We had lunch at the museum café and were again surprised, this time by a tasty lunch in a beautiful setting.
We walked the trails, tried out a few benches, saw some more paintings, and wandered around until it was time to break for dinner at Table Mesa in the main square. Again we were pleasantly surprised, this time by an innovative menu and really good food. We went back to the museum (open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays) to see what it was like at twilight. We had a last look at the Sargents and a few other pieces then took some farewell snaps from the parking garage.
Lest you think it was all fun and fluff, there were a few sour notes. We had to start our days listening to Fox News blaring its angry outrage in the hotel breakfast room, I saw too many Confederate flags (even one is too many), and local law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages except in bars and restaurants.
Thursday morning check-out time was not until noon, so we dawdled. We took a scenic drive through northeastern Oklahoma before making our way back to I-35, Texas, and the nearest Whataburger.
My camera, as usual, was not idle, and here's my Flickr snaps from the trip.
P.S. Oklahoma and Arkansas are much prettier than Texas.