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Today we welcome guest blogger Madeleine Aguilar, the 16-year-old daughter of State of the Art artist Alberto Aguilar, whose home/studio is in Chicago.  Madeleine and her siblings experienced Crystal Bridges and Bentonville for the first time when the family came for the opening of State of the Art.  Here she describes their visit in a straightforward way that captures the experience pretty succinctly.  Like her father, who melds his daily life and his family in his work, Madeleine draws no line between her personal and family experience of soaking up the rare treat of cable TV in their hotel room and the public experience of attending the opening in “fancy clothes”. When you visit State of the Art, we encourage you to participate in Alberto Aguilar’s interactive artwork, Sensitive Equipment, which involves a set of hand-bells and a balloon. — LD


I didn’t know what to expect from the Crystal Bridges museum. My dad mentioned extravagant bridges. I thought it was weird that it was located in a small town. I heard that it was founded by the daughter of the man who created Walmart. I hadn’t seen any pictures whatsoever of the museum or the town, so when we drove through the pleasant town and arrived at the entrance of Crystal Bridges, I was completely surprised.


Once you pass the entrance, you follow a road down into the woods. Then you say to yourself,” There can’t possibly be a museum at the end of this road!” But there was. Even when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it because it didn’t look like a museum. It was a small, concrete building at the edge of a hill. I assumed that the rest of the museum was at the bottom of the hill, but I couldn’t find out for sure because we just dropped off my dad so that he could be there before the opening began. He put on his fancy clothes in the parking lot and we left him there so that we could finally get to our hotel after the 11-hour drive.


Thankfully, the hotel was just two minutes away from the museum. There was actually a trail, that we learned about later, that led us from our hotel, through the forest, past streams, trees, and art, and directly to the museum. So when we got to the hotel, me and my siblings immediately went for the TV because we don’t have cable at home. We watched TV until it was time to get into our fancy clothes and leave to the museum to meet up with our father.


We took the shuttle there. When we arrived, some kind people by the concrete building signed us in and complemented my brother’s red pants. They led us to an elevator that I didn’t notice before. As the elevator took us down, we could see a courtyard filled with excitement and people. There were photographers everywhere. My brother was trying to get in the pictures. We entered through the doors and into the Crystal Bridges museum. At first I was overwhelmed by the crowds but as the night went on and I drank a couple Coca-Colas with the State of the Art logo on them, and I watched a DJ who used instruments and loops, and I took snacks from a round table filled with all types of foods, and I enjoyed an amazing performance by a band who afterwards gave me their CD for free, and I played on my dad’s piece with strangers, I realized what an amazing day it had been. We came back to the museum the next day and the day after that to experience the rest of the works in the State of the Art show. There was so much to see and such a wide variety of different things in the show—so we were able to take a lot from it.


During our trip we were also able to experience the town square of Bentonville. We stopped in a guitar shop, a toy store, and a breakfast diner. We ate at a restaurant called the Flying Fish and at a BBQ food truck. Twice, we visited the Walton 5-10 which is the first Walmart. The store front was just a small shop filled with vintage toys, candy, and souvenirs. But if you walk down a dark hallway to the back of the building you find a museum describing the story of Walmart; and it began with Sam Walton. From all that I gathered from the museum, I found that Sam Walton was a leader whose mission was to give good prices to everyone. I saw that he worked hard to build Walmart into what it is today.


I think the reason why our trip to Bentonville was so amazing was because everything was a surprise. I expected just a small town but I found a town rich with history and art. I expected just a fancy museum but I found a museum filled with kind people and amazing work by artists from across the United States; and not to mention the unique architecture of the building and the rocks, streams, and trees that surrounded it. I’m glad I was able to experience it in this way; as a surprise. It made everything much more memorable.