EDITORIAL: A momentous occasion

The Walton family strikes again (thank goodness)

Bentonville is a hip and happenin' place that keeps growing like a weed. Every time you turn around, it's getting new bike trails or a hot art installation. But it was a cold Friday morning when we found ourselves at the site of an new art project called The Momentary.

The site bills itself as a new contemporary art space, a satellite to Crystal Bridges. But a typical art museum this space is not. For starters, it used to be a cheese factory. Now it's a 63,000-square-foot space with room for art, music, exhibitions, performances and more. This is the best kind of recycling.

The Momentary was founded by the Walton family, and Olivia Walton serves as founding chairperson. She spoke at the opening ceremony.

Best as we can tell, The Momentary is a hybrid art and hangout space. That's probably not the exact definition its creators would use to describe it, but it's the best we can do. While there are galleries with paintings, sculptures and more, there's also an Onyx Coffee Lab, a restaurant called The Breakroom, two bars, and comfy benches to sit on and just relax.

And art is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. One of the first pieces we saw is Three Dimensional Sketchbook by Jill Downen. It looks like a desk filing cabinet, each drawer filled with different art supplies.

Later, we came across an installation from Puerto Rican Edra Soto. It's called Open 24 Hours and looks like different stands with several polished glass bottles inside, some clear, some green. And the art has a creative story to go with it:

On her walks through Garfield Park, Edra Soto noticed how the streets became a "24/7 living history of a place," always collecting waste on display for all to see. Inspired by the high number of liquor bottles, she began taking them home, removing their labels and photographing them. One man's trash is another woman's art. We circled around the display of bottles a few times.

For something to go from trash on the street to being cleaned up and used in art, that's a sort of rebirth in itself, right? The kind of rebirth only an artist with imagination can bring about.

Our tour happened upon For You rehearsing in one of the spaces inside The Momentary. They're from San Francisco. They were getting ready for a performance later in the weekend.

They were the most cheerful folks we'd seen all day. The way they described the act they were working on made us want to come back and see it. What an act it promised to be, incorporating several different elements, including a color guard and members of the high school marching band from Bentonville West High School.

(One of the out-of-town artists wanted clarification on something though: She asked if Bentonville West High School were the Razorbacks she'd heard so much about since arriving in NWA. The press pool went silent for a moment. Bless her heart. It didn't take long to explain to her Bentonville West's mascot is the Wolverine. If this lady wanted to see Hogs, she needed to head south to the UofA.)

Another performance space we got to see is RØDE House. It's a marvel, appearing to have a large wooden floor broken into sections. Each section can be raised or lowered for a wide variety of seating arrangements or shows. Or it can remain level and open up the room for a dance. It'll be really neat to see the venue in use for future events.

But by far our favorite section of The Momentary is at the top. Most of The Momentary space has a rough industrial feel, left over from cheese-factory days. About six stories up, though, a tower has been constructed.

Inside is Tower Bar. It's got a 1960s airport lounge theme going, and all the chairs look comfy and . . . chic? The place has a full bar and glass walls with a fantastic view of Bentonville.

Below you can see all the homes whose property values have probably been steadily increasing as Eighth Street and the surrounding area is redeveloped. Sadly the bar wasn't open when the tour went through. We could have easily sat in a chair, sipped a mimosa, and enjoyed the beautiful morning sight of Bentonville. Another time.

One of the final things we saw at The Momentary is a neon pink sign that said "You belong here." That's really its message--an inclusive creative space for everyone to enjoy; another jewel in the crown of northwest Arkansas that gives people a great reason to live there or visit.

We can't wait for the Arkansas Arts Center to be renovated and see some more creative projects open up across the state. The arts contributed $131 million in economic activity in northwest Arkansas. Far as we're concerned, spreading that creative energy out across the state is nothing but the good stuff.

The Momentary opened on Saturday. Admission is free, removing that last excuse from going to see the place.

Editorial on 02/25/2020