story and photos by Jamie Smith
Looking at the summer night sky is a favorite past-time for many families but an event at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Saturday (June 21) took that experience to a whole new level.
Summer Solstice Night at the Skyspace was designed to provide fun daylight activities for children and evening entertainment that was catered more for adults but still family-friendly.
Sara Segerlin, senior museum educator at Crystal Bridges, said the event catered to multiple generations and was an opportunity to highlight the “magnificence of Skyspace.”
“A lot of people don’t know the art work and this provides a (group activity for learning),” she said. “Then maybe they’ll come back on their own and have their own individual experience.”
June 21—the first day of Summer—was the perfect evening for an outdoor event as it’s the longest day of the year and it gave the museum the opportunity to connect the seasonal change with the Way of Color exhibit.
According to the museum website, “The Way of Color is a “Skyspace,” a site-specific art installation designed by world-renowned artist James Turrell. Located on the scenic hillside where the Art Trail meets the City of Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Trail, the Skyspace is a naked-eye viewing chamber that allows guests to view the sky through a round oculus in the roof. During daylight hours the Skyspace offers a place of quiet contemplation. Each morning and evening, in conjunction with sunrise and sunset, a programmed LED light display occurs inside the Skyspace. Changing colors against the Skyspace ceiling cause changes in our perception of the color of the sky viewed through the oculus.”
The event is also the opportunity for the museum to be progressive and demonstrate both traditional and contemporary methods of experiencing art and culture, Segerlin said.
The children’s activities at the beginning of the night included bubble art and PVC pipes designed to replicate the sound of PVC pipe created to replicate the sounds and feel of a didgeridoo, which is a wind instrument developed by the indigenous Australians that is sometimes described as a “drone pipe” for the type of sound it creates.
As dusk fell over the region, families gathered on the hillside and in the Skyspace to witness the lightshow and hear the orchestra play Steve Parker’s “The Way of Timbre,” which is a sonic interpretation of the light show.
“I’ve always been interested in ways that different spheres of art intersect,” Parker said during a talk about his artistic interpretation.
The combination of activities delighted many participants, who had the opportunity to experience a new art form and connect nature with art.
“It was neat to get the art and sound experience,” said Katrina Armstrong, who came with her children. “They love going on adventures.”
Lulu Segura came with her parents and said she enjoyed the art and nature, making special note of the sound of crickets that could be heard clearly in the night air. Her father, Juan Segura, said the family is frequently involved with Crystal Bridges activities and he appreciated opportunity for an outdoor event that appealed to all ages.
Rob Bender is a gallery guide at the museum and facilitates discussions at the Skyspace. His knowledge and appreciation for Turrell and his work is apparent and a joy he shares with museum visitors. He agreed that the Summer Solstice event was beneficial.
“It engages the community and lets them experience art work,” he said. “This is our second Summer Solstice event and it’s about James and his artwork. His work borders between art and science.”
The night ended with a special session of Notes at Night, which is usually a weekly feature from Downtown Bentonville, Inc. that hosts local musicians at locations in Downtown Bentonville. It’s usually on Thursday nights at 6:30 with locations changing each week. Saturday’s concert was from the popular local band The Airplanes.