Article by: Lisa Elia

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In the middle of the Ozark Mountains, the town that Sam Walton built is known for art as well as commerce.

When it debuted in 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was the country’s most substantial art museum to open in almost half a century, and it is living proof that a big museum can thrive in a not-so-big city.

The museum has attracted about 5 million people to Bentonville, Arkansas, since it opened almost 10 years ago, and last year, it had its most successful year yet, with 700,000 visitors, said Beth Bobbitt, museum public relations director.

With the opening in February of a contemporary art museum, The Momentary, there is even more art to enjoy in Bentonville. (Note that the museum is temporarily closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.)

“Everything you need is accessible from our vibrant downtown square, including world-class museums and cycling trails that connect you across the beautiful landscape of Northwest Arkansas,” said Kalene Griffith, president and CEO of Visit Bentonville. “There’s an adventure waiting for the whole family ... for food, art and outdoors lovers alike.”

In the first half of the 20th century, Bentonville was full of apple orchards and then tobacco fields. When that didn’t work out, poultry farming and quiet living became its trademarks.

But the city’s fortunes changed when Walton opened up his five-and-dime store in the 1950s. The global retail power that grew into Walmart persuaded suppliers to open satellite offices around its headquarters. Bentonville became a company town as business executives came here to mingle and make deals.

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