By Collectors Circle President Dr. Lisa Mani

In March, the Collectors Circle spent four days in Bentonville and in Fayetteville, Arkansas, enjoying a semi-magical stay at the Hotel 21c and as well as in and around the “ecosystem” of the Crystal Bridges Museum with surrounding nature trails, outdoor exhibits as well as restaurants in the nearby town square of Bentonville.

The primary purpose of the trip, however, was to tour the Soul of a Nation exhibition of African- American art. This semi-exclusive exhibit, to travel only to The Brooklyn Museum in the United States after Crystal Bridges, displayed and discussed in historical and political contexts art of widely varied media. The exhibition was well curated with works grouped in like media and themes to convey intended ideas and concepts of the artists. We were fortunate to have a privately guided tour by Lauren Haynes, the Curator of Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges and formerly on the curatorial staff at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Mindy Besaw, the curator of American Art at Crystal Bridges, led an extensive tour of the permanent collection at the museum. Her tour was an intellectual one, and she captivated us with her professorial approach to the collection. Of note was photography on display at Crystal Bridges by Celestia Morgan of Birmingham.

The museum itself is a vast structure anchored in water and fabricated in glass, cement and steel designed by Moshe Safdie. Our time at Crystal Bridges was graced with sunlight, that played wonderfully on the water outside and through the glass windows of the museum and restaurant.

On the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum are numerous outdoor sculptures, namely and recognizable such as a LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana and those of bleak, monochromatic human figures by George Segal. We toured as well the Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House, an example of classic “Usonian” architecture or coinage by Wright from “United States of America.” The house was relocated to the Crystal Bridges campus from New Jersey with reconstruction on site in 2015.

One evening before dinner, we took time to “meditate” at sunset watching changing colors of a sky window or oculus from within a James Turrell site-specific installation on the Crystal Bridges campus.

Restaurants in the Bentonville and Fayetteville areas were upscale and gourmet, often with new twists on southern comfort food that we all have grown to enjoy; of particular note in this category was The Hive Restaurant, serving refined southern cuisine. This is the restaurant at the Hotel 21c. Chef Matthew McClure received recognition in 2018 by the James Beard Foundation.

Fayetteville, Arkansas, a university town where we spent Saturday of the trip, offered as well much in the way of aesthetics. We toured the impressive Walton Arts Center, where some of us tested our acting skills on stage. This Walton Arts Center houses as well The Joy Pratt Markham Gallery exhibiting works of local and international artists. Even the Hillside Auditorium student and lecture facility is as well a showcase for public art of highly recognizable artists.

Fayetteville artists Kat Wilson, Sean P. Morrissey and Loring Taoka shared much time with us, meals and bus rides as well as time and refreshments within their studios.

The Cooper Memorial Chapel, a jewel box like, almost delicate structure of glass and steel Gothic arches, dovetailed nicely into our Saturday afternoon and into its intimate setting in the woods of Bella Vista, Arkansas.

In contrast and later that evening, as a “nightcap” after our farewell dinner at MOD Restaurant and Social, we paid homage to Leo Villareal’s thirty-foot, LED sculpture Buckyball. We were fascinated by its ever-changing and random light effects. We were as well all highly satiated by the unexpected creativity and enlightenment gained during this trip to nearby Arkansas.