Wheeler Kearns to design experimental art space for Crystal Bridges Museum

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Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns will transform a cheese factory into a new experimental art space for Arkansas's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. (Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns will transform a cheese factory into a new experimental art space for Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. (Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Bentonville, Arkansas will soon be home to a new art space designed by Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects.

The former Kraft cheese factory in Bentonville Arkansas.(Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

The former Kraft cheese factory in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced plans to convert a former Kraft cheese factory in Bentonville into new gallery space for unconventional programming. Like MoMA’s PS1 in Queens, New York, this venue will facilitate the showing of temporary, interactive, and performance art in a less formal setting. The museum’s permanent collection is currently displayed in a Moshe Safdie-designed building that bridges natural spring ponds in a forested setting. The museum grounds are also home to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Bachman-Wilson House, which was moved from its original location along the Millstone River in New Jersey.

Aerial view of Crystal Bridges. (Photography by Adair Creative / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

Aerial view of the Crystal Bridges Museum designed by Moshe Safdie. (Photography by Adair Creative / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

The new exhibition space will take on a much different feel than the polished Safdie galleries. The former factory will be allowed to maintain much of its industrial character throughout its 63,000 square feet. The new space’s downtown location will also distinguish it from the museum’s more rural main campus. The biggest difference, however, will be the way in which art is displayed and created in the space.

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The former factory is a spacious 63,000 square feet. (Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

In addition to film screenings and performances of music and theatre, the former factory will host a new multi-disciplinary artists-in-residence program. As such, Wheeler Kearns plans to design the space to be flexibly-used. Crystal Bridges will also collaborate with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) to develop the programing for the space.

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Much of the building’s industrial character will be preserved for the new space. (Photography by Mike Sinclair / Courtesy Crystal Bridges)

The Walton Family Foundation, Wal-Mart’s philanthropic group, was heavily involved in the creation of Crystal Bridges. Steuart and Tom Walton—grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton—are leading the foundation’s support the new space. Both have served on the museum’s Board of Directors. The yet-to-be-named exhibition space is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

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