Marriage equality isn’t the only reason Arkansas is shaking up the South.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Ark., was created by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and heiress to the family’s multi-billion-dollar fortune. If we had the kind of money that is in her bank account, we would spend each and every day throwing piles of $100 bills into the air and giggling with glee.
However, Alice Walton is a better person than us, because she decided her hometown in Northwest Arkansas needed some culture, and she was going to bring it there herself. After she spent several years sharpening her skills as an art collector, she amassed what is arguably one of the most interesting and delightful collections of Colonial American to contemorary art found anywhere from sea to shining sea. And it’s open to the public for free, every day.
Walton is well-known for going against the grain in the ultra-conservative Christian social circles of her Bible Belt home. Although she donated large sums of money to Mitt Romney in 2012, she is already showing her Arkansas pride by writing checks to Hilary Clinton in 2016. She also hired an openly gay man, who has a stay-at-home partner and a child, to run Crystal Bridges. Insert “gasp” here.
The museum campus opened in 2011 and was designed by starchitect Moshe Safdie. Like the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Getty in L.A., the Crystal Bridges galleries and grounds are a world-class attraction in their own right, where the masses gather and enjoy simply strolling amongst the gorgeousness around them. But people really do come to this museum to see the art.
We’re not saying Ms. Walton isn’t a capable art collector on her own, but it seems that she is getting some help from her gay friends. Besides the big names like Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keefe, and Francis Bacon (who is now on record as the artist who created the most expensive painting on Earth), this art collection has far too much camp factor and sexually-charged male flesh to be a coincidence. Plus, now that marriage equality is legal in Arkansas, the museum management is actively welcoming LGBT couples to host their weddings in the museum’s event spaces. The soccer moms and Walmart managers in Bentonville are living amongst a fortress of scandal!
Although jokes aside, it really is a wonderful place. Take a look at some of our favorite pieces of art there and you’ll see what we mean.