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story.lead_photo.caption This artist’s conception shows the Momentary’s East-facing storefront that opens to the large green space in Bentonville. An open courtyard surrounds the building.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has chosen a name and selected a leader for the contemporary arts space in the former Kraft Foods plant in Bentonville.

The venue will be known as the Momentary and will showcase visual and performing arts. It also will house an art-in-residency program. Preliminary renderings of the space were revealed by the museum Wednesday, and Crystal Bridges named Lieven Bertels as director of the venue, which is about 1.5 miles from the Crystal Bridges campus.

The Momentary was selected as the name after Crystal Bridges consulted with FODA, a brand consultant and design firm based in Austin, Texas.

Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow said several names were considered for the venue, but the Momentary fit the purpose of the space.

"The Momentary really talks about the idea that every time you come you'll experience something new and interesting," Bigelow said. "The exciting ideas of contemporary artists of our time is that they're always propelling us forward in ways that we may not expect, and I think that's what we're looking for in this space and therefore the name."

Crystal Bridges first revealed its plans to transform the 63,000-square-foot plant into a contemporary arts space in March 2016. The building is southeast of downtown Bentonville and previously was the Kraft Foods plant until the company closed it in 2012.

Officials believe the gritty, industrial space will be an alternative to Crystal Bridges, providing an outlet for creativity that blends visual and performance arts. Bigelow said plans for programming at the Momentary remain "conceptual," but he expects a wide range of experiences when the doors open in about two years.

"It will be a space where you'll interface with food in a different way, drink in a different way, performing arts, music, theater, dance, all sorts of different things," Bigelow said. "There will be those traditional experiences that you might expect, but I think we're working on creating an experience where you literally exist with the art and be in those spaces all the time, surrounded by art."

Bertels will be responsible for all activities at the Momentary -- including planning, development, artistic direction and day-to-day operations. Bertels was selected after an international search by Arts Consulting Group.

Bertels, a native of Belgium, will join the Crystal Bridges team in late September. He has been the chief executive officer and cultural director of a yearlong festival in the Netherlands called Leeuwarden-Fryslan 2018 European Capital of Culture. Bertels also served as the festival director for the Sydney Festival in Australia from 2011-16, and from 2004-11 was the artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, the oldest and largest arts festival in the Netherlands.

Bigelow said Bertels' international experience was attractive to Crystal Bridges and Bertels' portfolio shows he's a "talented identifier of new and interesting works and new and interesting artists."

Bertels already has participated in some planning for the Momentary and said Wednesday that he's eager to begin his new role.

"I think a couple of things are unique, and one of them is the opportunity for a place like the Momentary to have an artist-in-residency program, which is a bit harder in a more traditional museum context like Crystal Bridges," Bertels said. "We'll be able to issue invitations for artists to come and live in the community and work locally from afar or nearby. They will interact, not just with the Crystal Bridges collection and the team, but also in the community."

Bertels also believes that the Momentary's proximity to downtown Bentonville and Brightwater, the culinary school in the nearby 8th Street Market, will offer other unique opportunities.

The project is being supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Tom Walton, the chairman of the foundation's home region program and grandson of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, said in a statement that the Momentary will "create a space that inspires not just artists, but the entire community as well."

Crystal Bridges said in Wednesday's announcement that the Momentary will serve as a connecting point between downtown Bentonville and the Market District. The building is just off the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile trail system that stretches from Fayetteville to Bentonville.

Mervin Jebaraj, interim director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton College of Business, said the Momentary could serve as an anchor for more development in the area and will provide another cultural outlet in the region.

"I think it's something that we have needed, continue to need, and it will be an important component of our economy when it gets here," Jebaraj said.

Site work is expected to begin on the project in early 2018, with a projected opening of the space in early 2020. It's a slight delay from earlier plans to open in 2019. Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects has been selected as the designer, and intends to keep many of the industrial elements and original finishes of the building.

Bigelow said it's too early to pinpoint an estimated cost, but the goal of the adaptive reuse project is to strike a balance between the building's industrial past and its future as a contemporary art space.

"We're building this space on a day-to-day basis," Bigelow said. "We have a long haul because we're trying to create a really dynamic, interesting space for people to really engage in art of our time."

Photo by NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art plans to transform Kraft Foods former 63,000-squarefoot building into space for contemporary art, to include exhibition space and venues for music, ÿlm and theater.
A map showing the location of Momentary

A Section on 08/31/2017

Print Headline: Museum picks name, head for new arts venue

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