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New additions to Crystal Bridges

BENTONVILLE, AR — Today, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art previews a new entrance, elevator tower, and a pedestrian bridge on the north side of the museum, designed to increase access to the museum’s north lawn and trail system. This new entrance will open the public in June, and will connect visitors to the newly enhanced north forest in time for the Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest exhibition.

“Expanding access by developing new areas of the grounds and adding entry points to the museum helps deepen our relationship between art, nature, and architecture. We think guests will be thrilled with the convenience and inspired by new panoramic views of the museum,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

New Elevator, Lobby, and Bridge

The new elevator tower designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed Crystal Bridges, climbs 67 feet and will allow visitors easy access to both the north lawn and the North Forest Trail. Inside the museum, the elevator will open onto the east end of the Twentieth-Century Gallery Bridge, creating a third public entrance to the museum. The space will serve as a north lobby with a guest services desk, storage lockers, and other amenities. At the top level, visitors will cross a 100-foot elevated bridge to reach the North Forest Trail, which has recently been widened and paved. The bridge provides new, breathtaking vistas of the museum campus.

Moshe Safdie and Associates designed the tower, integrating the structure into the existing museum architecture through the use of shared materials such as glass and copper. Local architects Hight-Jackson and Associates, who assisted in the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the museum grounds, were involved in the process, as well as CEI Engineering Associates, Inc. and Tatum-Smith Engineers, Inc, and Flintco, general contractor.

North Forest Trail

The opening of the upcoming temporary exhibition Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest will serve as the grand re-opening of Crystal Bridges’ North Forest Trail, formerly known as the Dogwood Trail. A year in the making, this paved trail will increase accessibility of the museum’s natural landscape, especially for visitors using wheelchairs, strollers, or mobility scooters. Although there are some areas of gentle incline, the path has been engineered to soften any steep grades, which means that visitors with mobility challenges will be able to experience this area for the first time. The 1.1 mile-long trail is ten feet wide, designed in a figure eight, and will include public restrooms, and will be lighted at night. The first loop will feature Chihuly art installations, and the second loop will be walkable, but will have no artwork installed until after the Chihuly exhibition. After the close of the Chihuly, the museum’s North Forest Trail will re-open for public access and will re-connect to the Razorback Regional Greenway trail system.

Forest Improvements

Work on the north forest has been in progress for more than a year in anticipation of the Chihuly :In the Forest exhibition. Designers took care to minimize the impact on the woods and wherever possible, routing the trail through areas containing already dead or damaged trees. Removal of these trees not only made way for the new pathway, but also promotes a healthier forest.

The new trail cuts through a section of relatively young forest, which has reclaimed former farmland over the past 50-70 years, resulting in overcrowding of fast-growing trees. Consequently, this part of the forest has also been low in species diversity, not only of trees, but of other plants such as shrubs and perennials. This creates a lower diversity of animals such as butterflies and birds that depend on specific plants for food or shelter. Two years ago, the Nature Conservancy evaluated the site and determined that the forest was too dense. They recommended prescribed burns, but because the site is open to the public, burns are not always feasible. However, thinning the forest by removing younger trees is another way to help open the canopy and foster species diversity.

There are now nearly 500 species of plants on the museum property, which is double the number of species on-site when the museum opened in 2011. Crystal Bridges plants new native species of trees, woody shrubs, perennials, and ephemeral plants each year, but up to now those efforts have primarily been focused on the south side of the property. To diversify the north forest, native woodland plants such as Goat’s Beard (Aruncus ‘Misty Lace’), Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus pariflora), and Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) are being planted along the North Forest Trail, and will make their debut with the opening of the Chihuly exhibition.

“We’re excited to move toward realizing the full potential of our grounds,” said Scott Eccleston, Crystal Bridges Director of Operations. “Enhancing the trail and forest creates species diversity, welcomes visitors with accessibility issues to experience this area for the first time, and challenges returning visitors to see the relationships between art and its environment in new ways.” Eccleston adds, “And beyond Chihuly: In the Forest, the curatorial team is planning a unique and more long-term forest experiences with the installation of permanent outdoor artworks.”

Chihuly: In the Forest is the first outdoor exhibition for Crystal Bridges, and the first time Chihuly works will be installed in a native forest setting.

Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest (June 3 – August 14, 2017)

Chihuly: In the Forest (August 16 – November 13, 2017)

High res images available to download here.

This summer, Crystal Bridges will open dual exhibitions by the American artist Dale Chihuly. Presented for the first time in an Ozark woods and in the museum’s special exhibition galleries, it’s a world of wonder, waiting to be explored, only at Crystal Bridges.

Chihuly has been an innovator for more than 40 years, working in many media including glass, paint, plastics, neon, and ice, and always pushing their boundaries to carry out his distinctive vision.

He is globally renowned for his ambitious site-specific installations in public spaces, as well as exhibitions presented in museums and gardens. At Crystal Bridges, extensive indoor and outdoor installations feature new works by the artist, as well as iconic works spanning the breadth of his career. Tickets now on sale here. Ticket price: $20 In the Gallery and In the Forest; $10 In the Forest once the gallery portion closes. [Free for Members and youth ages 18 and younger.] A special Members-only previews will take place May 27 – June 2, 2017.

Chihuly Saturday Nights

Every Saturday Night from June 3 through August 12, 6 to 10 pm

Spend your Saturday summer evenings outdoors enjoying our music series, Chihuly Saturday Nights! Explore the stunning exhibition Chihuly: In the Forest, transformed into a magical woodland amplified with live music, circus acts, artist demonstrations, artmaking, outdoor games, a brand new Eleven food truck, and more. $15 (Free for members, youth ages 18 and under, and for guests with tickets to Chihuly: In the Gallery and In the Forest on the day of the event.)

North Lawn and Fly’s Eye Dome

At the base of the ravine adjacent to the north forest, the museum’s north lawn is beautiful but has been challenging to utilize fully because of the difference in elevation. Previously accessible only by two sets of long, steep stairs, the largest green space on the grounds, has been unable to fulfill its full potential until now. With the construction of the elevator tower, this space will be accessible to many more visitors. Currently, the north lawn is in development with the installation of the Fly’s Eye Dome, designed by architect, engineer, and visionary, Buckminster Fuller. While most of the dome structure is in place and can be viewed from the gallery, the north lawn will remain closed until July for the installation of landscaping, lighting, and interpretation panels.

At 50 feet in diameter, this dome is the largest of three original prototypes designed by Fuller as a response to global housing needs. The others measured 24 feet and 12 feet in diameter. Designed in 1980, our Fly’s Eye Dome was first displayed at the Los Angeles Bicentennial in 1981, and spent the next three decades in storage. In early 2013, the dome was acquired by Robert Rubin, an architectural curator and historian, who restored it. After being briefly on view at the Festival International d’Art in Toulouse, France, in the summer of 2013, it has now it has found its permanent home at Crystal Bridges.

Fuller imagined his groundbreaking design as “a beautiful, fully-equipped, air-deliverable house that weighs and costs about as much as a good automobile.” Coupled with Wright’s Usonian house, which was reconstructed on the museum grounds in 2015, Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome firmly establishes architecture as one of the primary pillars of Crystal Bridges mission, and embodies another significant development in the search for a uniquely American architecture. Efficient, affordable, at one with nature: all of these factors were key in the concept and development of both architects’ ideals.

Along with the acquisition of the Fly’s Eye Dome, Crystal Bridges has also acquired Buckminster Fuller’s complete archive of the dome’s development and production, which is currently being cataloged into the museum’s growing archive. A focus exhibition of letters, photos, and manuscripts from this archive will be on view in the lower north gallery in conjunction with the opening of the Fly’s Eye Dome in July.

“These enhancements represent the next phase for our five-year-old museum, in which we’re able to offer new art experiences in nature. Debuting the new entrance and north forest for the Chihuly exhibition will delight our visitors with the stunning works and create a newfound curiosity about the intersection of art, nature, and architecture. As we look ahead to activating the north lawn and forest, we envision hosting large outdoor events like festivals, concerts, weddings, and new educational opportunities for our community and beyond,” said Bigelow.

This exhibition is organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in cooperation with Dale Chihuly. The work displayed is protected by copyright. Sponsored at Crystal Bridges by The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, Airways Freight, Corp., Pamela and Wayne Garrison, John and Christy Mack, Morgan Stanley, BDT & Company, LLC, Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc., Stout Executive Search, Terri and Chuck Erwin, ConAgra Brands, George's, Mitchell Williams, Charles and Shannon Holley, Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry, Rosalind and John Brewer, Rick and Beverly Chapman Family, David and Cathy Evans Family, Morris Foundation, Inc., Sue and Charles Redfield, JT and Imelda Rose, Dennis and Evelyn Shaw, and Bank of America, U.S. Trust.

Fly’s Eye Dome is sponsored by Ken and Liz Allen, Chip and Susan Chambers, and Harrison and Rhonda French Family.

About Crystal Bridges

The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed 2.9 million visitors, with no cost for admission. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from Colonial to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120-acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright house was preserved and recently relocated to the museum grounds. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 140,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and 3.5 miles of art and walking trails. For more information, visit

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