Rendering of an artist studio at The Momentary / Courtesy
On Saturday, in front of a crowd of about 1,500 people, Olivia Walton told a story about her husband, Tom Walton. He’d been looking at radar apps all day. Any rain shower would briefly pass by the site of the main lawn of The Momentary, he promised her.
And while Walton couldn’t quite keep that promise, it does look like the Waltons and their network of affiliates are working to deliver the bigger promise of The Momentary – to bring a first-class contemporary art space to Bentonville.
The Crystal Bridges-affiliated art space is slated to open in February in an abandoned cheese factory on Eighth Street in Bentonville.
“It really is thanks to the ambitious vision of Tom, his brother Steuart and of course Alice [Walton, founder of Crystal Bridges] that we are all here today,” said Olivia Walton, chairperson of The Momentary.
Saturday marked the first official event for The Momentary, which was announced in 2017 and has since been hiring staff members, drawing up plans and converting the factory into a multiuse facility that will offer spaces for performing arts, music, visual arts and culinary options. The bulk of Saturday’s activities took place on the museum’s lawn, one of the main performance spaces. The outdoor space can accommodate as many as 7,000 concertgoers.
Saturday – in addition to being a push for museum memberships – served as a look into the construction process and an introduction to some of the programming coming when The Momentary opens on Feb. 22.
The first two exhibits coming to the facility were announced, as were several music festivals.
Those festivals are:
“Time Being” is the Momentary’s opening weekend festival and is slated to include a variety of dance, music and theater experiences.
FreshGrass – April 24-25, 2020
A new extension of the FreshGrass festival that takes place at MASS MoCA museum in Massachusetts, this event will feature bluegrass and roots sounds. Past performers include Brandi Carlile, Bela Fleck, Old Crow Medicine Show and Rhiannon Giddens.
VOX – Sept. 25-26
VOX celebrates the human voice and its application in songwriting, jazz, gospel and other music styles.
INVERSE Performance Art Festival – Nov. 13-15
The Inverse Performance Art Festival started in Fayetteville in 2016 and has grown into its current format. Artists from around the world will participate in the event.
Additionally, the first two contemporary art events were announced during Saturday’s event. The first will be an updated exploration into the popular and groundbreaking “State of the Art” exhibit that debuted in 2014 at Crystal Bridges. The exhibit focused on works from underrepresented contemporary artists from across the country. Both Crystal Bridges and The Momentary will host elements of “State of the Art II,” which debuts when The Momentary opens. It will run until May 24.
Nice Cave: Until, Photo courtesy MASS MoCA
The second exhibit is called “Until” and features a work by Nick Cave, the Chicago artist famous for his “soundsuits.” Crystal Bridges owns and has displayed a pair of these soundsuits, which are based on the shape of his own body and contain various noisemakers as an exoskeleton. “Until” takes its name from the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or its less comfortable flip side, “guilty until proven innocent,” Cave told the crowd. He participated in an artist talk and has previously visited the construction site several times to prepare the work. “Until” finds inspiration in the shootings of black men by law enforcement officers. But there’s hope in “Until,” Cave said. For him, it serves to answer the question of if there is racism in heaven. “Until” is a large-scale cloud chandelier of crystals and representational objects above it. It’s huge, consisting of more than 16,000 wind spinners and 10 miles of crystal. It previously was displayed at MASS MoCA.
Lauren Haynes, a curator for both Crystal Bridges and The Momentary, said the partnership forged with Cave will serve as a model for those going forward, as he’s been to the space several times and has worked closely with the museum to see the final product developed.
“You fit,” Haynes told Cave during the artist talk. “And with the way we want to engage these artists, we’re so glad you could kick us off.”
Saturday’s event included tours of the facility. There is much work to be done before the opening. The floor area of the RØDE music stage lacks a finished floor. The Tower Bar, the third-floor cocktail lounge, is framed in metal but lacks the windows that will provide the view of the surrounding area.
The Momentary also unveiled their first culinary-related offering. The Momentary Lager, made by Ozark Beer Company in cooperating with the museum, was available on Saturday and will be available at the brewery taproom in Rogers and Eleven, the restaurant inside Crystal Bridges.
Aside from the dates for the upcoming events, specifics such as a full artist roster or ticket prices have not been released. A teaser video played at the event showed photos of several musicians, such as Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett, but specific names were not announced and it’s not clear if those images align with upcoming programming.
According to Emily Neuman, PR manager for The Momentary, a more complete artist roster will be announced in December. Ticket sales for Momentary events will go on sale Dec. 12 beginning with sales to museum members, who get a 20 percent discount on the purchase price.