2.7 million people have visited Crystal Bridges in 5 years

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,111 views 

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art drew 608,000 visitors through its doors in 2015, 100,000 more than the annual average since opening in 2011. The Bentonville-based museum helped boost Northwest Arkansas hospitality tax collections more than 14% in 2015.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its opening on Friday (Nov. 11).

About 2.7 million people have visited the museum, and more than half of those visitors came from within Arkansas, according to a Crystal Bridges press release.

The museum estimates 55% of the visitors came from Arkansas, 25% came from adjoining states (Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas) and 20% came from other states and countries.

Within the roster of guests, there were visitors from Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Switzerland and Zimbabwe, and all 50 states and six out of the seven continents were represented, according to the press release.

Attendance outpaced expectations from the beginning with more than 650,000 visitors in the first year and between 500,000 and 600,000 in the years since, according to the museum. About half of visitors have never been to the museum before.

Tickets are not required and admittance is free for Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection, thanks to a $20 million grant from the Walmart Foundation in 2011. Attendance data is based on check-in information collected at the museum’s front desk, said Beth Bobbitt, public relations manager.

Since opening, Crystal Bridges has offered some 3,000 programs including art-making classes, artist talks, workshops and performances, and thanks to the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit Program, more than 140,000 students have visited the museum on field trips from 171 districts and nine states, as far away as San Antonio.

Since 2011, the museum’s permanent collection has grown from 1,555 to almost 2,400 pieces.

To date, there have been 68 outgoing loans, from Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed, on loan to The Tate Modern in London, to the portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale, on loan to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., according to the museum.

Alice Walton founded Crystal Bridges and now serves as board chair. “I knew this museum was needed. I grew up here and didn’t have access to art and I knew we wanted to change that,” she said in the press release. “What I underestimated was how much people wanted to have access to that great art. Our team has done a wonderful job capturing repeat visitors and making it truly a community center. I think that’s a really important part. I’ve never met anybody in the museum who doesn’t talk about feeling welcomed.”

The highest attended exhibition in the museum’s five-year history is State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, which drew a 175,000 people in 2014. State of the Art culminated a year-long process in which Crystal Bridges’ curatorial team traveled more than 100,000 miles across the country looking for art pieces, according to the press release.

The Bachman-Wilson House, designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was moved to the Crystal Bridges property last year and has seen almost 80,000 visitors since it opened last November.

Next spring, Crystal Bridges plans to open a new entrance on the northeast side of the museum.

Also in 2017, the museum will host its first extensive indoor/outdoor exhibition. Chihuly: In the Forest opens May 27, 2017. The exhibition will feature hand-blown glass sculptures.