Wal-Mart heiress' museum brings art to Middle America

Tue Nov 8, 2011 10:03am EST
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By Suzi Parker

BENTONVILLE, Ark (Reuters) - Art should be accessible to all people. That's the concept behind a massive new museum in small-town Arkansas that is the brainchild of the heiress daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

When the 217,000-square-foot art Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens on November 11, it will be the first major museum in 50 years dedicated to an immense collection of American art.

It's also the first time in the modern era that such a museum has been built in a small town like the northwest Arkansas town of Bentonville, population 35,301.

The town is home to Wal-Mart's headquarters. Heiress Alice Walton, 62, a billionaire who is not involved in Wal-Mart's daily operations, splits her time between here and her Texas ranch, where she breeds cutting horses.

"Alice Walton could have chosen to go anywhere in the world with her museum but she gave the city of Bentonville a gift," Mayor Bob McCaslin told Reuters.

From the modern silver tree sculpture at the museum's entrance by Roxy Paine to paintings by Colonial-era artists, the museum takes a visitor through U.S. history via art in 12 spacious galleries, with more than 400 pieces on view.

"You walk through history as you would through the art, as it is told chronologically," said David Houston, director of curatorial, during an interview in the museum.

"It tells American history from wars to peaceful times through art themes such as landscapes, mythology, portraits and even sculpture."   Continued...