There is a singular name that touches everything under the sun in Bentonville, Arkansas, and that name is Walton. Most notably among them was the late Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, whose spirit is felt throughout the town of just 54,000 residents, starting with his red Ford pickup truck that greets visitors of the Northwest Arkansas airport, as well as an exact recreation of his wood-paneled office—down to the blue ceramic coffee mug and stacks of papers—within the Walmart Museum in downtown Bentonville.
But just a few blocks north starts the 120 acres that comprise the Moshe Safdie-designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a different breed of museum entirely, and the brainchild of Sam Walton’s daughter, Alice, opened in 2012 with the support of Walmart and the family’s private endowment. Its approach to the works showcased inside is strikingly egalitarian, with nearly every period, medium, and scale of artwork represented, and more to come upon completion of another 100,000 square feet of gallery space highlighting craft and indigenous works, due in 2025.
Wednesday saw yet another step toward expansion with the debut of “Fashioning America,” an anthology of American fashion curated by historian Michelle Tolini Finamore, as well as the Fashioning America Symposium presented in partnership with the CFDA, drawing coastal crowds into the American heartland for a day of talks focusing on sustainability, diversity, and the future of fashion, held on the museum grounds. After a quick outfit change, a gala celebration followed.