Last weekend Maddie and I took a mother-daughter day trip to Crystal Bridges Museum. It’s in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is less than two hours from where we live in Missouri. The Norman Rockwell exhibit was there and Maddie, who is an art student, wanted to take a look. Our family has been to the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, but she was in elementary school then and doesn’t remember much from that visit. Crystal Bridges was well worth our drive. It turns out the Rockwell exhibit sells out quickly each day, so it’s best to reserve a spot online before you go. We didn’t do that, so we didn’t get to see the Rockwell exhibit. We did, however, get to see the permanent collection, which included one of my favorite Rockwell pieces, Rosie the Riveter. Here’s Maddie, absorbing this painting.

Rosie the Riveter by Normal Rockwell

The thing with lots of museums these days is that you can take photos, as long as you don’t use a flash. That’s a big change from years past, where cameras were often not allowed inside. I had more fun watching Maddie see works by the artists she learned about over the last year than I did actually viewing the art. Don’t get me wrong, the art was extraordinary and the volume of famous artists and their work was incredible. Because it’s here, in the middle of the country where we aren’t known for our fabulous art museums, I wasn’t expecting this museum to be as great as it was. It is a world class facility, as good (or better than) any museum I’ve visited in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago or Boston.

I highly recommend visiting Crystal Bridges.

Crystal Bridges courtyard mother daughter adventure

I told you before that I loved seeing Maddie light up when she recognized another famous artist or their work. Well, the best part of the trip wasn’t even inside the museum. It was outside in the courtyard area, where, for that day, they had a table with bags of chalk that you could use to create your own art on the sidewalk. Maddie decided to grab a bag of chalk and draw something. There were kids and adults, both, adding color to the concrete. Maddie started drawing and got into that zone where she wasn’t paying attention to anything other than her drawing. Then something unexpected happened: people starting watching her, like she was some kind of street artist or something. At one point there were probably 10 people standing at the top of the steps where she was working, looking down while she drew. They were taking photos and shooting video. She didn’t even realize it until I showed her my photos later. It was super cool. Here’s the courtyard, with the red Keith Haring art, and the photos I took while Maddie was creating. It was one of those times when it felt like I was fully living in the moment, and appreciating everything beautiful and amazing about this experience. To have this special day with Maddie, to watch her stand in awe before some of the great American artists’ work, to see her curiosity piqued when she learned new facts from the docents, and then to see her go out and create her own art was…I don’t think I can choose one word here. It was amazing, incredible, golden, wonderful, glorious, brilliant, and gratifying.

Crystal Bridges courtyard with Keith Haring art

Crystal Bridges courtyard art

Crystal Bridges courtyard art

Crystal Bridges art in the courtyard

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7 Responses to A Visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

  1. We’re so glad you visited, and we thoroughly enjoyed reading about Maddie’s chalk drawing experience. Those amazing moments you reference are just what we hope our visitors encounter while they’re here.
    Hope you visit again soon; the Rockwell exhibition has been particularly popular and has been selling out, but we’ll be featuring new exhibitions this summer.

    • Betsy says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Next time we hope to bring more family members and explore the trails. The trail from the parking lot to the museum alone was gorgeous and meticulously kept, so I’m guessing the other trails will be stunning, too. Thanks for the nice comment.

  2. Jen Y says:

    It’s too bad you couldn’t get into the Rockwell exhibit. I finally was able to go today with some friends & it was everything I had hoped it would be. I really loved the stories behind some of the paintings.

    Did anyone tell you the story behind Rose the Riveter? The face was a teen girl but the body was a man because he wanted to make her look tough. From what I understand, the young girl who posed for the picture was pretty devestated & got teased a lot when it came out. I also did not know that Rockewell used himself as a model for so many different paintings – I’ll be watching more closely for him now when I see one of them.

    I love Crystal Bridges too. I only live about 25 miles away & go as often as I can. My favorite part is actually the trails. Right now the wild flowers are glorious.

    I love Maddie’s chalk drawing. What a great fun way to spend a day together.

    • Betsy says:

      Thanks for sharing the Rosie story, Jen! I’m glad to hear that the trails are great – we will make that happen on our next trip! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Christine says:

    You have one AMAZING daughter Betsy!!!!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer… From Dream To Reality last week! Looking forward to partying with you again tomorrow evening!

    • Betsy says:

      Aw, thanks, Christine! Since parenting is the hardest job in the whole world, I think it’s important for us to latch onto these golden moments every chance we can – they are the ones that carry us through the not-so-golden moments. :)

  4. Hey there! Thanks so much for stopping by and linking up your awesome post! Stop by again next week and link up another awesome project!

    Have a great week!

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