Art of the Moment in the Heartland

The Momentary, Bentonville AR

Once a cheese factory, now an of-the-moment art, performance, and culinary space, a spanking-new Crystal Bridges contemporary arts spin-off manifests the arts of today.

The Momentary, a new contemporary art space for visual, performing, and culinary arts, has just opened in Bentonville AR, deep in America’s Heartland. The Momentary champions the role of contemporary art in everyday life, serving as a satellite to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

A decommissioned 63,000 square-foot Kraft cheese factory was chosen to house the Momentary. The new space offers the art and music of today, with galleries for exhibitions, performance spaces, artist-in-residence studios, culinary experiences, a festival field, and more. General admission is free.

The Momentary was founded by the Walton family, based on the vision of Tom, Olivia and Steuart Walton. The Walton Family Foundation is supporting this project as part of its commitment to cultivating arts and cultural experiences as a way to enhance the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville AR

“By witnessing how Crystal Bridges became an arts destination, bringing tourism and new audiences, new ideas and new perspectives to Bentonville, it was clear that there was more room to expand access to the arts in Northwest Arkansas,” said founding chairperson Olivia Walton. “The Momentary will allow people across the community, and from across the country, to engage in cultural experiences together, in a space that welcomes all to come try something new.”

The adaptive-reuse design of the Momentary maintains the integrity of the former cheese factory — which was built in 1947 — with elements added to support the new purpose of the space. The additions use contemporary materials and construction methods to differentiate them from the existing building.

The Tower Bar at the Momentary 
Photo by Stephen Ironside, courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville AR

The retro-futuristic industrial space — a little bit mid-century, a little bit Flintstones — is adaptable to accommodate everything from visual art exhibitions to performances to food festivals. Preserving the original character of the building was a priority to the Waltons. “We wanted to keep as much as possible,” Olivia says, “chipping paint, old pipes, uneven floors.”

The mezzanines at the Momentary. Photo by Dero Sanford, courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville AR

As an unmistakeable sign of welcome, the Momentary features a monumental site-specific neon sculpture, running 78 feet across and 25 feet high, ceated by artist Tavares Strachan. “I wanted to make a work that everyone can own—one that everyone can have. … Because as soon as you read it, you say, ‘I belong here,’ and you do belong,” said Strachan.

Tavares Strachan’s monumental site-specific neon sculpture, You Belong Here (2020). Photo by Stephen Ironside, courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, AR

The Momentary opened to the public on February 22, 2020, with the debut of State of the Art 2020, an exhibition that spotlights 61 individuals representing a cross-section of artists working today. This debut exhibition runs through May 24th.

SuSu, Darwin, 2018; Oil on canvas, 34 x 50 in. Courtesy of the artist

State of the Art 2020 — which continues the tradition launched with State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now (2014) — is on view at both the Momentary and the Crystal Bridges Museum, with free admission at both sites.

Curators traveled once again from Bentonville to find and feature artists working in communities around the country. The team visited studios across the U.S., resulting in the selection of more than 100 artworks by a diverse group of 61 artists of varied backgrounds and at different points in their careers. At both museums, artwork will include paintings, sculpture, photography, video, performance, and mixed media.

“After years of careful planning and consideration, we are thrilled to welcome all to engage with art in a whole new way,” said Lieven Bertels, director of the Momentary. “Artists are at the center of everything you see here. They create the work, they influence our design, they make the Momentary what it is. We are delighted to have this opportunity to spotlight today’s artists, the work they are producing, and the role they play in our everyday lives.”

The Momentary
507 SE E St, Bentonville, AR

Hmmm … maybe it’s time to plan a little trip?

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