LEAP Center Midwestern Tour (Day 7): Crystal Bridges

The last day of our Midwestern Tour arrived, and we were able to visit the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The beautiful museum was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, and the funds for the museum were provided by Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Although open for fewer than ten years, the Museum is one of the most ten visited museum in the United States—despite being location off a major highway, and hours from a major airport.

But it is worth the effort to get there. The Museum grounds are beautiful…

Girls_Museum_Grounds..and the art was amazing.

Among the favorites were political works, such as Charles Wilson Peale’s famous portrait of George Washington…

George_Washington_Constance

..and a piece by an artist who is becoming a favorite of ours, Georgia O’Keefe:

Radiator Building, O'Keefe
Radiator Building, O’Keefe

Not only is there no entrance fee to the Museum, but the Museum offers free audio guides, which highlight hundreds of works of art, providing background and instruction for those of us who are not already art connoisseurs.  In the piece above, for example, we were able to see connections in the white crown of the Radiator Building with many of O’Keefe’s work focusing on the southwest, particularly animal skulls, which take on a similar color and shape.

Similarly, in Thomas Hart Benton’s work, “Plowing it Under”

Thomas_Hart_Benton_Ploughing_it_Under

We learned how Benton used similar contour lines depict the sky, human/animal life, and the ground to make a connection between life and its environment, a connection hat would have been particularly salient in the 1930s in the midwest.

The Museum also allowed us the opportunity to engage in some “performance art”…

Girls_Ball

…and pose next to (and in) Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture.

LOVE_Girls

It was sad as we ended the trip, with a final look at the Museum…

Crystal Bridge Art Museum
Crystal Bridge Art Museum

The end of the trip, however, also offered a time of reflection on what we learned and experienced.  Accordingly, we voted on our favorites, with the following results:

In general, our favorite cities were (1) Madison, WI, (2) Kansas City, and (3) a tie among Chicago, Bentonville, Little Rock, and Spring Green.  Madison was the big surprise, impressing us all with its beauty and many shops and amenites.

Capitol_Building_Girls

Identifying our favorite sites was more difficult.  The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park was a favorite…

Millennium Park
Millennium Park

…as was the Art Institute of Chicago

Picasso
Picasso

…with Talieisin, the World War I Museum, and Union Station receiving votes.

Union Station, KC
Union Station, KC

The many art museums allowed us to develop an appreciation for art in general and specific artists.  Our group favorite was Georgia O’Keefe…

Cow Skull, O'Keefe
Cow Skull, O’Keefe

But we also enjoyed seeing original art works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Rockwell, Rembrandt, and Rodin.  A favorite of ours was the work of Dale Chihuly, who kept popping up in all sorts of places.

Chihuly Exhibit, Clinton Library
Chihuly Exhibit, Clinton Library

One of our favorite parts of the trip was the food.  The one restaurant everyone included on their favorite list was Grunauer, an Austrian restaurant in Kansas City.

Sausage Sampler, Grunauers
Sausage Sampler, Grunauer

Other favorites included DLUX in Madison, and Sonny Williams Steakhouse in Little Rock, AR.

So it was with expanded tummies and horizons that we returned to Texas, ready to return to school work and looking forward to the next LEAP Center trip.DSC_1306

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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