Many things ring true during a visit to Bentonville, a small town that makes a big impression. The beauty of the area’s natural surroundings and nostalgia of the town square hit an authentic chord inside everyone who visits. The proximity of galleries, museums and entertainment spaces throughout town inspire visitors to walk where they otherwise would drive. Whether it’s a bold sculpture in a gallery, the vibe of a local band or a mural that stops you in your tracks, creativity pops up around every corner.
Start your discovery at one of Bentonville’s points of pride. Art and nature seamlessly merge at Crystal Bridges, an architectural wonder tucked into a natural ravine. Go with the flow on a network of trails to encounter a Chihuly installation, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, and other massive steel abstracts in the middle of the Ozark woods.
Bridges span spring-fed ponds and lead to indoor art pavilions with glass walls that keep nature in play. Set off on a celebration of 200 years of the American experience captured on canvas. The collection includes familiar names such as Thomas Hart Benton and Norman Rockwell. Find early American art that dates back to the 18th century, modern luminaries such as Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keefe, and exhibitions of American artists currently impacting the art scene.
Also on the grounds, visitors can tour the Bachman Wilson House, a fine example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture. Dismantled at its original New Jersey location and reassembled on the grounds of Crystal Bridges, its addition to the collection embodies Bentonville’s commitment to the arts.
Follow the trails that lead from Crystal Bridges to its new satellite art space. The Momentary anchors the 8th Street Market District, a vibrant area of downtown where cafe culture and performance art creates a steady buzz. The contemporary art space for visual and performing arts hosts pop-up gatherings for everything from culinary competitions to jam bands.
The Walton Family Foundation preserved the original structure—a former cheese factory—and repurposed it into a social space to match today’s community vibe. People come here to hang out and see what’s new, to linger over conversations fueled by the coffee bar and cocktail lounge on site, and to bask in the glow of an 80-foot neon installation piece that declares “You Belong Here.”
Public art enhances the trails, corners, alleys, and nooks of Bentonville. Murals provide colorful backdrops for coffee breaks and shopping excursions, bike trails are dotted with monuments constructed of well-worn bike chains and frames, and a casual stroll from point A to point B often includes hidden works of art that add whimsy to the journey.
Preview all 100 pieces before setting off to increase your Instagram cred with shots of public art throughout Bentonville. For twilight shots, seek out neon pop art such as Fireflies and the iconic Bentonville Radio sign on 2nd Street. For couples selfies, Open Heart at the roundabout on Bright Road and Heartland at Compton Gardens make the perfect backdrops. For the ultimate action shot, Launch Intention at Osage Park encourages visitors to touch the art.
It’s no surprise a city as dedicated to art as Bentonville has a boutique art hotel in the middle of downtown. This is not just a hotel with some cool art hanging in public spaces, 21C is anchored by a dedicated art museum and rotates exhibitions throughout the year. Plus, the gallery spaces inside the hotel hold gatherings for live music and performance art programs, and the in-house eatery—The Hive—presents plates as pretty as the art on the walls. Within walking distance of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Momentary, and 8th Street Market District, the hotel makes a perfect home base to discover astonishing art experiences in Bentonville one step at a time.