Walmart gifts $2 million to the Momentary, venue on schedule for early 2020 opening

by Robin Mero (rmero@nwabj.com) 2,308 views 

Contemporary arts venue the Momentary in Bentonville is within budget and on schedule to open in early 2020, and Walmart announced Thursday (Sept. 13) a $2 million gift toward free general admission and future programming.

Officials from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Walton Family Foundation held a press event in Bentonville to give updates on the satellite project to Crystal Bridges.

The Momentary sits within 70 acres being master planned as the Market District, adjacent to the Brightwater Center for the Study of Food and a 350-acre superblock that will serve as Walmart’s new headquarters.

Tom Walton, grandson of Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton and Home Region chairman of the Walton Family Foundation, discussed how art, along with bicycling, has become integral to the economic growth of Northwest Arkansas. “This region is going to put a flag in the ground and stand behind it,” he said.

Walton and his wife, Olivia, told a story about one of their earliest dates; he took her to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known for its eclectic presentation — indoor and outdoor venues with a myriad of artistic forms cohabitating, such as dance, music, sculpture, painting and film.

Not only did Walton impress his date, they had a revelation about the possibilities for experiencing art, the couple said.

“We want to blur the boundaries … we want the Momentary to be an experiential, dynamic, unexpected place where every time you go you have a different experience,” Olivia Walton said.

Whereas Crystal Bridges focuses more on historical American art in a museum setting, the Momentary will showcase “living artists and art being made today,” said Momentary Director Lieven Bertels, whom Walton introduced as his “best hire ever.”

Construction will transform, but retain the industrial elements of, a 63,000-square-foot former Kraft Foods plant at 507 S.E. E St. in Bentonville. The multi-disciplinary space will offer visual, performing and culinary arts, as well as an artist-in-residency program and social spaces for the community. Spaces include galleries, studio space for artists, a small black box theater, kitchen, café, rooftop bar and flexible indoor gathering areas as well as an outdoor space for concerts, festivals and community events.

Site work is now complete with new construction starting on the adaptive reuse project. Tulsa, Okla.-based Flintco is managing the construction work, with design by Wheeler Kearns Architects of Chicago.

Kraft closed the cheese plant in 2013. It had been open since 1947, and for six decades local dairy farmers delivered milk that was used to make ingredient cheeses for other Kraft plants.

Unique features of the building are being preserved, such as a vast series of pipes in the ceiling, through which was pumped milk and steam. A former block garage, with huge bays where the milk was delivered, will become a concert hall. For a fermentation room, a variable acoustic system was designed to enhance sound.

Addie Roanhorse of the Osage Nation presents a photo of her and her daughter, depicting a traditional fingerweaving design that informed her work, the first commissioned art for the Momentary in Bentonville. Roanhorse’s patterns will be etched into the building’s patterns and façade.

“Something that was of the utmost importance to us architecturally was to make it clear to the visitors what we’ve added and what was here as part of the plant,” said Calli Verkamp of Wheeler Kearns.

The development is just west of Brightwater and the 8th Street Market. Greenspace between the properties will become public space for a park and to be used for festivals and concerts, the first of which is being planned for the fall of 2019. The park will connect with the Razorback Regional Greenway.

The property was formerly an apple orchard during the 1830s when Arkansas became a state, Bertels said. Previously it had served as hunting grounds for the Osage Nation.

To honor the indigenous history of the land, the first artwork was commissioned from Addie Roanhorse, a member of the Osage Nation and a graphic designer and photographer for the tribe.

Roanhorse, who lives in northeast Oklahoma where the tribe is headquartered, focused on an ancient Osage fingerweaving pattern used to make belts. An abstraction of the pattern she created will be etched into the glass on an extension of the plant’s tower, which houses the elevator shaft and stairwell, and in the building’s entryway and loading dock, and it will play a functional role in filtering light.

Updates about construction progress at the Momentary can be found on its website themomentary.org, and via social media.

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