Going With The Flow: Crystal Bridges rolls with the curves of 2020

“Companion Species: Speech Bubble” by Native artist Marie Watt was featured in Crystal Bridges’ 2018 exhibition, “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950 to Now” and was recently acquired by the museum. The piece is the inspiration for a new focus exhibition, in partnership with MONAH, that will be on display Nov. 21-May 31. (Courtesy Image/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; copyright Marie Watt)

"It takes a tremendous amount of planning to schedule these exhibitions -- sometimes years go into the development, organizing and scheduling the tour. So we were thrilled to be able to go back and make that date work for our visitors to still be able to see the show."

Beth Bobbitt, public relations director at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, is referring to the museum's next temporary exhibition, "Ansel Adams: In Our Time." The exhibition was part of the original temporary exhibition schedule for 2020 and was set to debut at the museum May 23. The exhibit is in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which curated it. With all the planning that goes into creating an exhibition, much less shifting its entire schedule, Crystal Bridges is very fortunate the timing worked out

Now opening Sept. 19, "Ansel Adams: In Our Time" will present the work of the iconic American landscape photographer alongside contemporary works focused on similar themes of nature and the changing American landscape.

The other exhibition affected by Crystal Bridges' temporary closure is the focus exhibition "Companion Species," now on display Nov. 21 through May 31. The focus exhibition is inspired by the museum's recent acquisition of Native artist Marie Watt's (Seneca) piece "Companion Species: Speech Bubble" and will be a collaborative project with the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville.

"Marie Watt was part of the show 'Art for a New Understanding,'" Bobbitt says of the 2018 exhibition that featured Native voices from the 1950s to now. "She's really interested in telling Native stories through what she calls blanket stories -- her artwork that weaves in this Indigenous culture with more contemporary exchanges, with text and things like that."

The acquisition of the distinguished piece, the new partnership with MONAH, and the 31 other artworks acquired from the Bruce Hartman collection out of Kansas City that will also be included in the exhibit all coalesce to make the focus exhibition a special and important project, Bobbitt shares.

Though reopening procedures have been an adjustment for everyone who experienced closures due to the virus, Bobbitt says museum staff are encouraged by visitors' flexibility in adapting to the new measures.

"We're still at one third capacity, so we're seeing a lot of people coming right when the museum opens and, of course, on the weekends," Bobbitt shares of identifying peak times. "For the most part, the timed tickets are really key to helping us identify how many people are coming when, and can help us plan for when we think the museum will be a bit busier.

"We have slightly adapted our operations to meet the needs," she goes on, "as we're seeing that there are some walk-ups in addition to the timed tickets. So now we're accommodating those walk-ups when space allows and just being really flexible. We're lucky that we have 200,000 square feet of space and lots of room, and then, of course, our grounds and five miles of trails so those who may not be as comfortable indoors are still able to enjoy the artwork that are on the trails."

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Crystal Bridges

Museum of American Art

WHEN — Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Monday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; closed Tuesdays

WHERE — 600 Museum Way in Bentonville

COST — Free; reserve timed entry tickets online or by calling Guest Services

INFO — 657-2335, crystalbridges.org