Category: CBMAA Blog

Ali Demorotski is Curatorial Assistant here at Crystal Bridges, and she has been closely involved with the State of the Art exhibition from the get-go:  handling everything from flight arrangements and artist recommendations to the rather unusual subject of this post:  shopping with artist Jonathan Schipper for the furniture to be used to create Slow Room, his installation featuring a roomful of stuff that gradually gets dragged into and crushed against the back wall of the space over the course of the exhibition.  Here she chronicles the process. Tip:  don’t miss the time-lapse video of Slow Room in action!  –LD


The rapidly approaching close of the State of the Art exhibition evokes a sense of sentimentality and reflection within the staff. It’s a mix of “that flew by” and saying goodbye to new favorites:  both work and artists. It’s a time to celebrate, as well as catch up on some of the stories of how we accomplished the monumental task that was the research-through-installation process that got us to this point.


Initially, my responsibilities for the exhibition were purely focused on contacting colleagues for artist recommendations and scheduling studio visits with artists near and far. But the most fun really started when we had selected who would be in the exhibition and began working directly with them. My established relationships with the artists had perks, and one of my favorites was working with Jonathan Schipper on his installation Slow Room. The installation has been one of the most talked-about works in the exhibition. It has fascinated our guests, often inciting thoughtful questions and repeat visits to check its progress. School children have submitted wonderful drawings and their parents have sent us letters about the excitement their child exudes when they talk about it (even waking them at 3 a.m. to ask questions in one case).  It has captured imaginations and has one of the more interesting backstories of how it came to exist at Crystal Bridges.


I have always loved spending lazy Saturdays or Sundays winding through endless aisles and piles at antique stores and flea markets. It was something my parents enjoyed, often telling stories of items they remembered from their childhood and I laughed at their “antique age”…not realizing I’d be doing the same so soon. (Beanie Babies, anyone?!) It’s a reminder that items that were once so dear to us eventually make their way back into the world; but it’s also a reminder of the abundance of objects at our fingertips waiting to be purposeful again.


“The sofa is the most important thing.” That was the earworm planted by Jonathan Schipper during a phone conversation prior to his arrival. Immediately I panicked! I had taken State of the Art artist Jeila Gueramian around town during her site visit to find afghans and cross stitch from various resale stores, but furniture is a completely different ballgame. Plus, I’d seen Jonathan’s previous Slow Room installations ( and ) and there is a certain era and feeling of the items selected. To soothe my nerves, and have a little fun of my own, I set out the four Saturdays before it was go-time and searched high and low for the greatest sofa options in the area. (Also filling my phone with a photo inventory!) The fourth Saturday was designated to revisiting the top contenders to see if they were still available before the big week of purchasing.


Jonathan and his assistant Annie Evelyn arrived on a Monday morning and we hit the ground running! We spent the entire day zig-zagging between stores from Fayetteville to Bentonville. We took in so much visual information it was amazing we could think straight by the end of the day. After the stores closed, we headed back to the Museum offices to print out all the photos we had taken and spread them like playing cards, or a State of the Art catalog, and began identifying the key items we wanted to go back for the next day. Although the sofa had been identified as key, finding great chairs to go with it proved to be a challenge. The sofa we all had mentally committed to buying didn’t make sense with the chairs we had found throughout the day, therefore the very last sofa we had seen that day ended up being the winner and our starting point for the next day.


Day two was “rental truck day.” We retraced our zig-zag in nearly reverse order and started filling the truck with the large items we had scouted and added the rest of the décor tchotchkes. Along the way, Annie and I learned the selection process for each item. Jonathan loving refers to the resident of the room as “Grandma,” so we would find an item and approach him with the question “is this Grandma’s style?” or “would Grandma like this?” If the answer was yes, then into the truck it went! The piece-de-resistance was when we finally found Grandma’s portrait.


Wednesday morning we moved the furniture into the gallery and began laying it out, much like you would your own living room. The only, and relatively major, difference being the bizarre hole in the back wall that was always part of an item’s placement consideration. This hole, no larger than 10” wide, is part of a wall that was built with reinforced steel plates and additional bracing to be much sturdier than the average living room wall.  With the hole looming over the feeling of the room, the layout of the purchased items was selected and missing items identified: a coffee table (which didn’t make it into the truck day 2!), a lamp, and a chair for the sewing machine. Off we went for day 3 of shopping. New stores, final items purchased, and a promise we’d never go shopping again. Ever. Luckily that was only the visual exhaustion talking!


The final two days of the installation consisted of Jonathan and Annie drilling or punching holes through all the objects in the room. Everything from piano keys, to picture frames, to furniture legs and stuffing were open territory. They then began the process of running Dyneema string through each object and toward the hole in the wall. Lengths and slack varied as they were strung from the object’s location in the room, through the hole, and then wound around the center of the mechanism that sits behind the hole in the wall.


This mechanism, designed and fabricated by Jonathan, and is the driving force that brings Slow Room to life. Previous Slow Rooms had only run one week or 20 days. This was going to be the slowest Slow Room ever done and we wanted to make the most of the four month timeframe. Jonathan tested various rotation speeds for the mechanism and calculated the overall hours the exhibition would be open. After the ideal speed was determined, he hooked the mechanism up to a timer to have it turn on and off during the Museum’s open hours, allowing us to get the most out of every minute.


The rest, as they say, is history. Museum staff and guests alike have reveled in the wonder and excitement of watching the room change over time. You’ll overhear someone saying “have you seen the Slow Room lately?” Prompting a beeline to the gallery to see what’s changed. Objects we predicted would fall or break first hung on a little longer before crashing to the ground. When we thought things hit a point of stasis and couldn’t break any further, we watched the sofa turn into an unrecognizable, twisted toothpick. (No! Not the all-important sofa!) There was always something new to see.


Although it is sad to see the exhibitionm close I can’t help but be thankful to have been a part of it. Slow Room brought fun, lively conversation, and imagination to our lives for a slow, yet fast, four months. As a bonus, we’ll always have the time-lapse to remember it by.


P.S. – A quick shout out to the wonderful local shops we scoured for all the items in the Slow Room! Please support these businesses and others like them in our community. They have wonderful, and often unique, items to take home and cherish. (Our apologies for how we treated them but we chose them out of love!)

  • Homestead Antique Mall – Rogers
  • Betty’s Attic & Jen’s Jewels – Rogers
  • The Rose Antique Mall & Flea Market – Rogers
  • Somewhere in Time Antique Mall – Rogers
  • Goodwill – Rogers & Springdale
  • Samaritan House – Rogers
  • Belle’s Plantation House Antique Mall – Lowell
  • Midtown Eclectic Mall – Springdale
  • Me & The Flea Market – Springdale
  • Tontitown Flea Market & Antique Mall
  • 410 Vintage – Fayetteville


Joachim Pissarro is the great grandson of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. He is also the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries at the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-author of the book Wild Art. Pissarro will visit the Museum tomorrow, January 7, to give a Spotlight Lecture about the book:  a visual exploration of everything and anything from outside the exclusive and rarefied spectrum of the ‘Art World.” From pimped cars and graffiti to extreme body art, ice sculpture, and flash mobs—this book has them all.


As Pissarro writes about the work:  “The objects featured in this book do not fit; they are the misfits of the art world. They are often spectacular, frequently causing strong impressions. Their visual powers are obvious, direct and immediate; some are mesmerizing, some shocking, some weird and some hilarious. Together they all share one common denominator: they do not leave their viewers indifferent. This is what makes them so interesting.”


He also wrote that “Working on this book has changed our own everyday experience of visual life. We have begun to pay more attention to art in the street….”


It is true that the concentrated act of looking can change how we see.  We can easily go through our daily lives without seeing the graphic design of our cereal box, the graceful ergonomic shape of a shampoo bottle, or a well-crafted television commercial as art, to say nothing of the surprisingly beautiful tattoo on the shoulder of the biker dude standing in front of us in line at the grocery store. But the concentrated practice of really looking at the real-life art all around us suddenly opens us up to seeing art everywhere. Or perhaps more accurately, to recognizing that art for what it is.


In something of the same way, many of the artists represented in State of the Art rely on everyday materials as either the subject or medium of their work.  These artists are also recognizing the art around them—or the potential for art—in the most common of materials and themes. Consider the photographs of Miami, Florida artist Peggy Nolan: armed with her camera loaded with real film, Nolan captures the minutiae of everyday life: a bowl full of light bulbs, the corner of a curtain lifted in a breeze.  She said she was captured by “the odd transformation that occurs between actually having the experience and seeing it through a frame that you subconsciously put on it–so that sun setting on hairs on the floor looks like some religious thing.”


Or consider the Water Bar by the artistic duo Works Progress. This installation in the Museum’s main lobby takes—as both its subject and medium—the water we drink. What could possibly be more everyday than water?  And yet nothing else is quite as important for us, either.  The Water Bar is an interactive experience, offering guests the opportunity to taste and compare drinking water from three local sources. We immediately become connoisseurs in tasting differences between three samples of something we might otherwise consider to be just the same.  And tasting makes us think about where our water comes from, how that affects the quality, and what we can do to keep our water sources clean and safe.  Water becomes art/becomes water!


Wild, huh?


Join us for Joachim Pissarro’s presentation and see what other wild art is out there to discover! You can see a short video about the book here.


Along with the rest of the Museum departments, the Digital Media team has been hard at work to create interactives for the State of the Art exhibition.  One project we created was the State of the Art mobile app.  The app is available for free on Apple and Android platforms.


I’ve been asked a few times why we decided to have a separate app for the exhibition (rather than just a temporary exhibition tour in the Crystal Bridges App) and why a guest should consider installing it on their own device.  There are both technical and experiential reasons.  On the technical side, mobile apps are at their best when they have a focused function.  The CB Museum app [link] functions well because it is primarily an audio guide for the Museum’s entire permanent collection.  We wanted to offer a similar all-encompassing and in-depth mobile experience for this special exhibition.


So what are some of the highlight features in the State of the Art app?


We’ve included more than just the works that have tour “stops.”  That’s right, all 227 works in the exhibition and all 102 artists are included in the app.  We’ve also included all the extended labels from the gallery as well as a few curatorial stops.  And we’ll be adding more tour content throughout the run of the exhibition.  If you’re having trouble finding the location of an artwork between the two galleries, then you can use the View on Map function, found on the artwork pages, to see the location of any artwork.


We’ve upgraded the way you can search, which is located in the upper right corner.  Not only can you search by the tour code that you find in on the object label in the gallery, but now, as you learn the names of your favorite artists and works, you can search directly by that information.


One fun feature we’ve included in this app is the option to “favorite” artists and artworks. Once something is selected as a favorite, it is included in a special list that can be accessed from the main menu.  This essentially lets you create your own custom tour of the exhibition.


Another fun feature is being able to share an artist you like through social media.  We’ve integrated with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.  So start letting your friends know about these wonderful artists.


Finally, there is the Media Extras section.  Here you will find all of the extra content that the Museum is creating in connection to the exhibition.  This includes all our State of the Art-related blog posts as well as the recordings from all of the State of the Art lectures, art talks, the Summit, and other programs as they happen. New content will be listed here for quick reference in order for you to stream and enjoy it again and again. Yes, even the recent State of the Art Symposium will soon be included in that section of the app.


Hopefully this little overview helps you understand our decision to make a special mobile app for such a special exhibition as State of the Art. We hope you will consider installing it on your mobile device and enjoy.

Today we present another guest blog post: this time by State of the Art artist Kristen Cliffel.  Cliffel participated in the Museum’s Symposium in November, and returns to Crystal Bridges this coming weekend to lead both adult and youth workshops in making art using your own memorabilia.  (Learn more about them here:  there are still a few spaces left.) We are so pleased that the State of the Art artists who have participated in programming at Crystal Bridges have had such positive experiences with our Museum and our community.  It illustrates how reciprocal creative energy is:  the artists who participate in programs with our guests and other artists receive as much energy as they expend.  We, as audiences, inspire them as much as they, as artists, inspire us.  That makes us, the viewers and learners, a genuine and important part of the art!  We are grateful to all who participate on both sides of that win-win equation! –LD


I had never been to Northwest Arkansas before I was asked to participate in the State of the Art exhibition last year.  Now I’m coming back, and it is feeling more like a second home than not!


My husband and I flew out for the opening back in September and were sufficiently shocked and awed by the grandeur of the grounds and the museum itself.  The State of the Art show continues to hold my attention, even from afar, as I learn more about each of the artists in the exhibition and also the people who have made it happen.


The Symposium in November was an awesome experience for me. I was not only a participant on a panel about Home as the Artist Residency, but I also got to take a class from one of the other artists, Lenka Clayton!  My parents flew in to Bentonville to see the exhibition for the symposium weekend and arrived just in time to have a glass of wine and slip into Lenka’s class with me!


We hadn’t met Lenka, but the description of her class sounded exciting and right up our alleys! My mother is also an artist and makes found-object collage sculptures, so she was super game to learn a new skill and meet another fabulous artist!  My father is an eye surgeon, so he is great with his hands and very creative as well.  Lenka gave a great slide talk that we all loved, a really wonderful intro into her work and world, and she made us feel at ease with the process of felting.  We all loved the premise of “Making Dangerous Objects Safe”!


My parents came to the exhibition in the morning while I was chatting about my two pieces in the SOTA.  Here they are…


Saturday was great, I got to see a lot more of the Crystal Bridges permanent collection, as well as continue viewing State of the Art more intently than I had at the opening weekend.  I met some great folks who work at the museum and who were super effusive about the exhibition; and a few who stopped me to let me know how much they enjoyed having my work on site!


One of the highlights of my time at the museum was having my parents, who are true art lovers and museum goers, totally wowed by the collection and the State of the Art show.  We had a great lunch and debriefing at Eleven in the middle of the day before my panel began.


The panel that I was a part of was so interesting and I absolutely loved being a part of it!  Lenka Clayton presented first and I adored seeing her work and hearing her talk about her process.  Alberto Aguilar and his family were next, and truly had a unique presentation that almost brought me to tears, with the finale being a composition by his 16-year-old daughter.  I was thrilled to have my parents in the audience and felt very at home and comfortable communicating my process and work with everyone who attended. So many people connected with the artists that weekend, it was really magical.


I got to see a few more panel discussions during the weekend that really enhanced my experience with the work in State of the Art.  Learning about the practices of so many different artists really was explosive intellectually and creatively.


I am getting ready to come back to Crystal Bridges and meet more community members and museum people again this week. I am really looking forward to my workshops on Saturday and Sunday with children and adults!  We will be creating small personal narratives: sort of frozen moments in time with objects from the backs of our minds and the bottoms of our hearts.  I always treasure the time I have to work in the studio with other makers.  Inspiration floods my soul when I see people discovering things about themselves through creating artwork.  I usually end up wanting to buy the pieces that my students make!!! Of course they are too valuable to give up and I love seeing students go home with their new creations!


Who knew a year ago that travelling to Northwest Arkansas from Cleveland, Ohio could be so exciting and fulfilling! I really feel like I have won the lottery this year with all of these new experiences and opportunities to share my world and work with so many others in a new and beautiful place like Crystal Bridges.


Jason Vaughn‘s photo series hide features lovely, sometimes haunting images of the semi-permanent deer-hunting stands he has discovered in his adopted home of Wisconsin. Vaughn grew up far from the rural culture of hunting, and so when he began this project, he associated the stands with killing and death. As he met and talked with the hunters who owned the stands, however, he came to understand that the hunt meant something very different to them. For these men the hunt was associated with fond memories of being outdoors with their fathers or sons; of long-standing traditions; of camaraderie, family, and a connection with the land. Vaughn, who was expecting his own first child, began to see the stands differently… and then something happened that would dramatically change his understanding of everything, and add a new power and purpose to the work .  In today’s guest artist post, Jason Vaughn tells his story in his own words.  –LD


hide began as a typological reflection on Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, using deer stands as the recurrent symbol. Only months after completing the project did I begin to appreciate its significance in my own life.


I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, in the midst of working on the photographs for hide.  I was 32 and had never had any health issues, so I was completely blind-sided.  That period of time in my memory is a blur.  I spent a month in the hospital, then went through several months of chemotherapy.  At the same time, my wife had just given birth to our first child and I was trying to comprehend my new role as a father.


Amid the chaos, hide provided calm. Long drives through the farmlands of Wisconsin inspired me, and long walks through fields forced me to push myself physically. The fatigue from chemotherapy was devastating. Every time I started to feel well, I had another infusion and started the whole cycle again.  Most days, I did not have enough strength to do minor daily tasks let alone carry my large format camera across a field. hide gave me the motivation to fight my physical battle.


Mentally, this was the darkest period of my life, and hide provided an escape.  During my illness, some of my closest friendships, which I thought would be permanent parts of my life, seemed to falter. I had relocated to Madison only months before being diagnosed, and had focused on preparing for a new baby rather than making new friends.  When I was diagnosed, my wife and I decided she should continue going to medical school, but I often felt alone.  I needed a distraction and meaningful connection with other adults.  Talks with the hunters gave me that, at the time when I needed it the most.  The conversations seemed completely removed from the constant drone of medical speculation that consumed my days.  Instead, we discussed family traditions, nature, and the culture of hunting.


Suddenly, the themes that I had contemplated when I embarked on hide became salient and real.  Hunters talked about constructing these stands to leave to their children, especially those who would inherit the land. I was contemplating the idea of what I might leave to my son, so these conversations felt very personal.  Many hunters fondly recounted a feeling of oneness with nature and a joy in sharing it with their children in the stands. Artistically, I wanted to capture that serenity, but I kept reflecting on how to define “meaningful” time with my infant son, especially if my time with him might be limited.  I found it easy to dwell on the negative when I was not engaged with my art. Only in retrospect did I begin to realize the positive impact hide had on my life during that time.


Oddly, in the context of my own mortality, I became more open-minded about hunting. Hunters speak with nostalgia about cold days in the deer stands with their fathers. They do not quickly bring up the animals or the idea of death; instead, they speak about a kind of camaraderie that I find entirely compelling. At a time that was very isolating, I could appreciate the inclusive culture of hunting.   I saw a side of hunting that went beyond the killing of animals.


hide has been warmly received, both in US and internationally.  Seeing three of the images in the State of the Art show at Crystal Bridges Museum is both an honor and an affirmation.  The exhibition seeks to “investigate what’s happening in American art today.”  During my recovery and subsequent remission, the idea of “today” became a theme in my life.  To be honest, I never knew if I would have another day to create art, another day with my family.  Being part of this show is a triumph as an artist, but even more it is a personal celebration as a cancer survivor.  I am grateful to everyone who looks at this work and appreciates how close it came to being lost instead of discovered.


Jason Vaughn’s work is included in State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, on view at Crystal Bridges through January 19, 2015. The photographs in the series hide are collected in a book of the same title, available in the Museum Store.


State of the Art is an exhibition that reaches a wide group of individuals from all over the country, but especially for the Northwest Arkansas region.  The State of the Art Catalog is one of the ways in which individuals can take a piece of the exhibit back home.  What makes the catalog even more unique are the interactive cards in each box.  These cards serve as possible game-night material, are informative, and can be your next architectural masterpiece… sort of.  When the Crystal Bridges Library gave a copy of the catalog to Fayetteville Public Library and Bentonville Public Library, the librarians decided to invite the public to make decorative architectural masterpieces of their own.

Check out these wonderful creations, and drop by one of these public libraries to take a look!  If you’d like to bring home your own box of State of the Art artist cards, visit the Crystal Bridges Museum Store


Last week Crystal Bridges hosted our first public Symposium, focused on State of the Art and the artist’s relationship to his or her environment. (Watch this space for upcoming posts about those interesting artist/audience discussions.) On the Saturday of the Symposium, the Museum also offered a teen drawing class directed by State of the Art artist Monica Aissa Martinez.

When we asked the participating artists if they would be interested in leading a public program of some sort, our education team was overwhelmed at how many of them said yes. More than 60 of the artists in the exhibition have returned to Crystal Bridges to interact with our guests in some fashion:  art talk, lecture, performance, demonstration, or workshop.  Of particular interest to the education team was how many of these artists asked specifically to work with teens.  Martinez was one of these.

Her three-hour workshop:  Drawing your Body’s Anatomy, sold out quickly.  We were delighted to see that after she returned home, Martinez documented her experience with Crystal Bridges’ teen guests in her own blog.  We didn’t think we could say it any better than she did, so we invite our blog followers to read Monica’s entry–and enjoy the photographs of some of the phenomenal work her students produced–for yourselves!

Watch our calendar for more great upcoming programs with State of the Art artists in the months ahead!

Cooler weather is upon us, and many of us, including me, treasure those last warm days of the year. As an Art Instructor for a museum that has over 3.5 miles of winding trails, the opportunity to incorporate the natural beauty into lessons is too good to resist. Some of the artists in our exhibition State of the Art share my affinity for nature, creating artworks that represent it, refer it, explore it, even embody it. Noticing the variety of methods used to represent nature in their artwork, I was immediately inspired to create my own method of capturing nature.  You can try this method yourself at home.  My description here includes steps appropriate for 9 to 12-year-olds. The final lesson is so simple and stunning, I am pleased to share it here.


I prepared this lesson for the Homeschool Friday Fun: Scissors series, a three-part class connecting local homeschoolers with the Museum. The series Scissors explored how artists manipulate different tools to create art. In this lesson, my goal was to teach my students to create relief prints preserving the detail of nature, inspired by the artist Flora C. Mace whose works Big Violet, Tazetta Narcissus, and Fritillaria Checkered Lily are featured in State of the Art. While Mace laboriously deconstructs plants then reconstructs them piece-by-piece into layersof hot glass, my students were tasked to capture the detail of the chosen leaves by strategically pressing them into clay. After cutting the leaf-shape free and manipulating the form to look “natural,” the dried leaves were colored with metallic colored pencils. The results were veiny, jewel-toned sculptures of nature. This lesson is simple enough to introduce to younger ages, but beautiful and versatile enough to inspire any age. Choose air dry or bake clay that will render fine detail, find pliable, textured samples from nature, and with just a few household objects, you’re ready to create your own natural artworks.  Happy Autumn!



Air-dry clay (we used Activa Plus Clay in black)

Fallen leaves (leaves that are still soft and pliable work best)

Clay tools or butter knives

Wax paper

Rolling pin

Small bowls to shape

Metallic colored pencils (we used Faber-Castell Red Line Metallic Pencils)

Area to dry



We began our lesson on the South Lawn looking for interesting, pliable fallen leaves.  After each student collected four or five, we trekked back to Walker Landing and enjoyed the last warm day of Autumn with an outdoor lesson.


Divide clay up into balls, large and small depending on the size of the found objects. On a sheet of wax paper, flatten the balls out into ¼ inch thick discs using a rolling pin. Press object into clay disc and gently roll the pin across the surface to ensure detail is rendered. Cut around the shape with a clay knife or butter knife. Carefully remove the leaf, and then gently shape the clay leaf into natural shape, or combine a few to create a bowl (I gently pressed the ends of my clay leaves together and let them rest in a small, wax paper-lined bowl to dry in a concave shape). Leave the sculpture to dry for about 24 hours on wax paper. When dry, color the surface with metallic colored pencils. The pencils are fine enough to not overpower the detail of the leaf, while luminous and colorful.

See our online calendar for a complete schedule of upcoming classes and events!

Moira Traw is an Art Instructor for Crystal Bridges’ Public Programs


We know there are quite a few works in State of the Art with connections to Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection. But did you know the Museum Store has a connection to a work in the State of the Art too?


Much like Emily Erb’s artwork World Map, regional artisan Susan Tinker’s work uses the technique of painting on silk. Both women are drawn to this elegant fabric due to its lightness and flexibility. Susan has been a practicing artist for 50 years. Though she has a BFA in textile design, she originally never considered designing silk scarves. In 2012, a custom silk scarf was given to her as a gift by a friend. That scarf was the gift that kept on giving, as it sparked new inspiration in her. Susan’s friend generously shared her 20 years of knowledge and expertise of the various techniques used to paint scarves using this tightly woven and high-sheen surface as a canvas.


Susan’s rich and colorful designs come alive. She begins by layering French silk dyes onto the silk using a variety of methods. Squeeze bottles are used to flood the color over the silk. Patterns may be printed or painted. She may even draw more intricate designs such as dragonflies or butterflies. One of Susan’s favorite techniques is a decades-old watercolorist trick. It involves pouring sea salt over the wet surface. The sea salt creates more patterns and dimension in the color by lifting, pooling, and moving the pigment. The result is always unexpected. She also uses sponges, stamps, rollers brushes and even a cookie cutter. Just about anything can be used as a tool with which to print or paint.


The finished product is a piece of art to wear that will enhance any wardrobe.


We invite you to come and visit with Susan at the Museum Store on Saturday, November 15, from 10 am to 6 pm. She will be demonstrating her silk scarf painting technique throughout the day. Her scarf designs will also be on display and available for purchase. While you are visiting, you can also view Emily Erb’s World Map on view in the State of the Art south gallery!

I was pretty floored when I heard from our curators that they were going rogue in developing their next exhibition by traveling cross-country to get to know artists in their studios.


Why would such an idea be so shocking to me? I think in part we’ve become conditioned that establishments such as museums often define art based upon the valuing of art auctions, private collections, and biennials. So it was refreshing to see curators take action and say to the establishment “Let’s be authentic and hear from the artists on what is art!”


Fast forward to the exhibition that evolved from that effort, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, which features more than 220 artworks, 102 artists from all across the US, not just New York and LA.  This exhibition goes beyond just the number of objects and the names. To me, it is actually a journey for the viewers and for the artists to be amongst each other as they explore a spectrum of art mediums and offer up their opinions on current society.


Given the depth of this exhibition, we museum educators couldn’t wait to capture this moment by offering the State of the Art Symposium, Crystal Bridges’ first public symposium, on November 14 and 15.  We’re very pleased that 14 State of the Art artists have accepted our invitation to share their thoughts on what is important to them in their everyday environments—from nature, to home life, to the community.


The State of the Art exhibition is the first of its kind for Crystal Bridges, and probably in the world. It has certainly set a precedent in exhibition research, and made a clear statement that Crystal Bridges is determined to connect with people and places nationally. This public symposium serves as a link between what’s happening nationally to what’s happening locally.


You may not know it, but there are tons of people in Northwest Arkansas (all around you, if you live nearby) that are doing pretty cool art shows, making art, helping the community, and advocating to support the arts in schools and on the streets.  Here are a few examples:



  • Kat Wilson and Sarah Leflar turned a backyard structure into an artist exchange program of exhibitions called Bottle Rocket Gallery.
  • For almost five years, a group of local artists have been dedicated to running one united gallery, the Fayetteville Underground.
  • Springdale has one of the longest-running multi-disciplinary art centers in NWA, the Art Center of the Ozarks which is leading Springdale into a trendy place of culture with their recent events, including the Wrecking Ball Warehouse party and the Sensory Iconoclast food/public art program.
  • Bentonville’s new 21c Museum Hotel is quickly becoming a social hub for local artists to experience the latest in contemporary art.


If you are interested in the arts and culture in our community, I encourage you to join us for our inaugural public symposium. Of special interest is the Open Platform session (from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on November 15) that showcases local perspectives from artists and art organizers in the region, as well as several artists from around the nation whose work appears in State of the Art. This session includes discussion and debate on the “state of art” in NWA and where we envision our community’s future.  This is a great opportunity to network and dialogue with other creatives in the area and across the nation!


Here’s a sneak peek at some of the regional participants in NWA session, with a special thanks to the very savvy Executive Director Samantha Sigmon from the Fayetteville Underground.


Ben Flowers received an Artosphere Partner Grant for his Envirofountains: place-based ecological sculptures. He is now working on Backrub, a series of collaborative public installations and participatory events at the DIY venue Backspace. Flowers also volunteers his time as a board member at the Fayetteville Art Alliance.

Kat Wilson is an Arkansas-based photographer as well as a co-founder and co-director of Bottle Rocket Gallery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. A non-profit gallery, Bottle Rocket shows artists from outside Arkansas whose work can be described as controversial, confrontational, or in some way challenging for the viewer. The mission of Bottle Rocket Gallery is simple—to create access for people in Northwest Arkansas to see the work of artists whose work, although important, would not otherwise be shown in this area.

Sabine Schmidt is an award-winning photographer, writer, literary translator, and educator. Schmidt serves as president of the board of Fayetteville Underground, is past vice president of Art Amiss, and is a member of the Kansas City Artists Coalition, the Arkansas Arts Council Artist Registry, the Arkansas State Committee Registry of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Eureka Springs Artists Registry.

Erika Wilhite is founder and Executive Artistic Director of the Artist’s Laboratory Theatre of Fayetteville, AR. The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is dedicated to creating intimate and surprising performance experiences through the process of experimentation with form and content, and through community outreach. Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is currently producing The New Now, a long-term performance project that explores the impact of technology and social media in our world today, and Sunday Night Service, a weekly performance series at Maxine’s Taproom to be aired on KUAF this Fall.

Eve Smith is the Director of Visual Arts at the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, Arkansas. She has a degree in studio art from the University of Arkansas. Smith is listed in the National Museum of Women in the Arts Registry, co-curator of Sensory Iconoclasts (a partnership with Arts Center of the Ozarks and Crystal Bridges), and is an arts educator with students as young as 18 months of age.

Dayton Castleman is an Arkansas-based artist, educator, and curator. He currently manages 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, where he lives with his wife and their three children. Castleman has participated in collaborative projects and studio spaces with other contemporary artists in Philadelphia and Chicago, and occasionally curates exhibitions out of his home.

Sam King is an artist/musician from Fort Smith, Arkansas. King co-edits MW Capacity, a website devoted primarily to painting in the Midwest, and co-directs Lalaland, a DIY arts and music space. King’s work is exhibited nationally and regionally. He resides in Fayetteville, AR, where he serves as Assistant Professor for the University of Arkansas Department of Art.

Samantha Sigmon is currently the Executive Director of the Fayetteville Art Alliance (known as the Fayetteville Underground), a regional artist-centered non-profit. She also directs a collaborative DIY arts and music venue in downtown Fayetteville called Backspace, is a board member of the New Design School, and serves on several art and local business committees.