As I have noted in earlier posts, Bentonville is hardly a "small town." In fact, is in a metropolitan area with nearly half a million people, but Smith is not the first to characterize it as such. See earlier posts here and here. And admittedly, the immediate setting of the museum is bucolic, as the top photo suggests.
A recent New York Times feature story about the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art recited the now familiar spiel on the location of the institution, the pet project of Wal-Mart heir, Alice Walton, which opened in November, 2011. Roberta Smith calls the museum's home, Bentonville, Arkansas, a "small town in northwest Arkansas."
But Smith is more focused on the museum and its collection than she is on its location, and she concludes her opening paragraph with this assessment:
But there it stands, a big, serious, confident, new institution with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and a collection worth hundreds of millions of dollars in a region almost devoid of art museums.
Smith mentions an interesting gap in the Crystal Bridges collection--indeed an ironic one: "the almost complete lack of paintings by largely self-taught or folk artists."
This omission is especially noteworthy because rural America is so often associated with the common man, as well as with other connotations of folksy.
And, indeed, the museum is reaching out to the "common man" or--more precisely--the common child. Smith notes the museum's "ambitious education program, which will reach out to more than 80,000 elementary students in the area."
Related to these programs, I assume, is the Crystal Bridges Fenceworks exhibit, which sits at the entrance to the museum grounds.
The art fence caught my eye when I visited the museum on its opening day, Nov. 11, 2011. I took the photos below of the artwork of students at area schools, including Springdale, Bentonville, Fayetteville, West Fork, Elkins and many others. Some of the scenes depicted are very local--such as that of the Rodeo of the Ozarks. You can see that one painting is in a van Gogh style, another a la Monet. I wonder how long Fenceworks will remain, and if it will be a rotating exhibit, with new paintings by area children each year. The sign on it suggests that the exhibit will grow.