What A Day we had in Arkansas!

Trip Start May 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hiking and High Art all in a 20 mile stretch of northwestern Arkansas.....

We started the day with a lovely 4 mile hike/walk on the Diversity Trail at Hobbs State Park near Rogers, AR, less than an hour from Eureka Springs. We really enjoyed being in the piney woods on another gorgeous day. our hike led us to a part of Beaver Lake, the largest lake in Arkansas.

Next on to Crystal Bridges, the recently-opened Museum of American Art founded by Walmart heir, Alice Walton (last estimate of her wealth: a whopping $23 Billion). Walton's collection is extensive spanning art from the Colonial period to the present. And her pocketbook is limitless. She has been known to pay exhorbitant prices for major pieces of art - in 2004 she paid $35 million for a masterpiece of the Hudson River School, Asher Durand's "Kindred Spirits". On our visit today there was a special exhibition of this painting and others from the Hudson River School - way too many Thomas Cole's for my taste. Beth will remember that it was Walton who tried in 2007 to buy Thomas Eakins' masterpiece "The Gross Clinic" for $68 million for her planned museum. Considered a Philadelphia treasure, the Philadelphia Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Art raised sufficient funds in record time to thwart her ambitions.

The museum sits a short distance off a suburban street in Bentonville, a sprawling and fast-growing region, anchored of course by Walmart and its many vendors. For me, the Moshe Safdie designed building was the real treat and worth the effort of getting there. The building, eight linked pavillions, sits in a beautiful natural setting with two large spring-fed pools at the center. As you walk through the museum the outside is always within sight.

I can't comment much on the actual art - there seemed to be at least one of all of the major names of each period - Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, John Singer Sargent, to the more recent, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Marsden Hartley, and Jasper Johns. Some reviewers have noted that many of these works are 'either small or perfunctory'. Others have lauded her choice of lesser known American artists, such as Wayne Thiebault, Joan Mitchell Gene Davis and Janet Sobel.

Walton aims to make Bentonville an art destination ala' Gehry's Bilbao Museum.  That remains to be seen though the museum was fairly busy today - the lunch line was incredibly long but the food quite delicious. Many of the visitors we saw did not seem to be your usual museum-goers but that is part Alice Walton's vision - to introduce art to folks who don't get to museums very often. Besides the free admission apparently there is an extensive program for the area's school children to both visit CB and also have more art appreciation in the classroom. Hooray for that!

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