Crystal Bridges unveils exterior plans, names director of new venue to open in 2020 in Bentonville

by Jennifer Joyner ([email protected]) 4,098 views 

At the north end of the Kraft Foods plant, a small addition to the existing loading dock is pictured in this architectural rendering.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on has released details on its plans for an arts venue under development in the former Kraft Foods plant on Southeast E Street in Bentonville. The venue is named The Momentary, the Bentonville-based museum announced Wednesday (Aug. 30), and it will serve as a space for multi-disciplinary programming that includes visual and performing arts and an artist-in-residency program.

“Similar to Crystal Bridges, the new venue seeks to offer access for all and meaningful arts experiences,” Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a statement. “While Crystal Bridges provides a deep historical context within a museum setting, the Momentary will have a more experimental feel and encourage visitors to participate in the ongoing conversation and artmaking process — all toward the goal of extending the story of American art in an international context, right up to the moment.”

Construction is planned to begin in 2018, with a goal of opening in early 2020.  Crystal Bridges’ vision for the arts venue is reflected in the name. “Dismantle the word ‘contemporary’ to its Latin roots, and you get ‘with or thoroughly and lasting or serving for a time only.’ The word momentary speaks to that same fleeting quality found in music, in performance, food, exhibitions, etc.,” Jett Butler, creative director of Austin, Texas-based FÖDA said in a statement. The brand consultancy and design studio collaborated with the museum on the name.

The Walton Family Foundation has pledged support for the project, though projected cost and other specifics have not been announced.

“The development of the Momentary is a continuation of the family’s commitment to make art accessible in the heartland of America and continues in the vein of founding Crystal Bridges as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy,” a Crystal Bridges statement noted.

Tom Walton, chair of the foundation’s Home Region Program, praised the project in a statement included in the Crystal Bridges press release.

“Art is transforming lives in Northwest Arkansas by opening our minds to new ideas and cultural experiences that bring people together,” Walton said. “The Momentary will create a space that inspires not just artists, but the entire community as well.”

Wheeler Kearns Architects of Chicago will oversee transformation of the 63,000-square-foot facility, located on Southeast E Street at the intersection of downtown Bentonville’s Arts and Markets districts near the 8th Street Market that houses NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s newly opened culinary school, Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food.

The aim of the project, now in the design phase, is to maintain the building’s “industrial integrity” while designing space for art galleries, artist studio space, a black-box theater, amphitheater, studio kitchen, café, bar and “flexible indoor and outdoor community gathering areas,” according to a statement from Crystal Bridges.

Others working on the project include McClelland Consulting Engineers of Fayetteville, Howell & Vancuren landscape architects of Tulsa, Okla., and Chicago-based Thornton Tomasetti structural engineers and Threshold Acoustics.

Lieven Bertels was named as director of Momentary and will join the organization in late September, according to Crystal Bridges. Bertels previously served as CEO and cultural director of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 European Capital of Culture, a year-long arts festival in The Netherlands.

Lieven Bertels

“The Momentary is poised to be an international destination that demonstrates how contemporary American art and artists intersect with daily life around the globe,” Bertels said in a statement. “The Momentary will push boundaries of creativity, blur urban and rural lines, and provide access to arts-based experiences in a comfortable and well-designed social space. This is a truly exciting project not just for the region but for arts communities at large.”

Before acting as director of Leeuwarden-Fryslân, Bertels was festival director of the arts event the Sydney Festival in Australia from 2011 to 2016. He served from 2010 to 2016 on the board of directors for the International Society for the Performing Arts in New York City. From 2004 to 2011, Bertels served as artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and before that was artistic director for Concertgebouw in Bruges, Belgium.

In 2013, he was named a Knight in the Belgian Order of the Crown.

“Along with international arts experience and a history of successful leadership, [Bertels] brings a strong background in performance art and fresh ideas about ways to expand the cultural impact of the arts in our region and beyond,” Bigelow said in the statement. “His work in Leeuwarden, at Sydney Festival and in Bruges demonstrate his ability to advance projects that are culturally transformative.”

Crystal Bridges bought the former Kraft Foods cheese plant last year, paying $1.52 million for the 5-acre property, which sits 1.5 miles south of the museum.

Food Hub NWA, an entity affiliated with Walton Enterprises, was the seller. Food Hub paid $1.45 million for the development in July 2014.