The Momentary, the downtown contemporary art satellite of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, will open on February 22 in a former Kraft cheese factory. The adaptive reuse design by Wheeler Kearns Architects maintains much of the original 63,000-square-foot brick masonry building Kraft occupied from 1947 until 2013 (from 1913 to 1947, Eagle Flour Mill controlled the site). Additional spaces for art exhibitions, performances, events, and dining have been added that use contemporary materials to contrast with the existing industrial architecture of the building. The Momentary follows in a long line of converting decommissioned industrial spaces into experimental art museum outposts, including MoMA PS1 in New York and MASS MoCA in Western Massachusetts. 

“In addition to being a sustainable building method, adaptive reuse serves as a living history much like contemporary art itself,” said Lieven Bertels, director of the Momentary, in a press release. “The Momentary will be an intersection of art and everyday life; perhaps some of the original elements and industrial fixtures will inspire artists and the communities to think about their own evolution and this moment in time.” The inaugural exhibition, State of the Art 2020, will be free and open to the public from Feb 22 to May 24. 

Towering side of a museum exterior

The Tower’s exterior features glass panels with a design inspired by native Osage clothing, and was designed by artist Addie Roanhorse. (Stephen Ironside/Ironside Photography)

Gallery and performance spaces’ names allude to their former use such as a Fermentation Hall, Hydration Column, and Boiler Room. The biggest addition, the Tower, is a 70-foot-tall space that will host art and performances as well as a top-floor bar. The outdoor green space, designed by Howell & Vancuren Landscape Architects of Tulsa, Oklahoma, will feature a 50-foot-tall canopy made by the Japanese company Taiyo. 

If it seems unlikely that a small town in Arkansas with a population of 50,000 would open two monumental art museums in less than ten years, it should be kept in mind that Bentonville is also the home of Walmart—the original Walton’s Five and Dime is preserved there as a museum, and the Walmart headquarters in Bentonville employs around 15,000. Walmart and The Walton Family, one the country’s richest, are the main financiers and founders of both the Crystal Bridges Museum and the Momentary, as well as many other projects around the town.

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