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Devorah Sperber’s “After the Last Supper” presents an inverted rendering of Leonardo’s masterpiece that rights itself when viewed through a glass globe. The wall-size work itself is assembled of spools of thread of different colors.

The setting for the paintings brings natural light at varying angles, often fluttering in reflection from the ponds over which two of the main buildings are set. The water flows from several springs in the ravine, one of which is Crystal Spring, which gave the museum its name.

Walton has not said how much it cost to develop the museum and 3½ miles of trails through its 120-acre setting.

Architect Moshe Safdie worked to have the pavilions blend into the setting, using local stone and wood to emphasize the ties the museum has with the land, which had been owned by the Walton family for decades.

Visitors experience the landscape, indoors and outside, as they experience the art.

Arched wooden supports are held up by thick cables that are mounted in concrete 10 feet deep. Safdie explained before the museum opened that the downward pressure from the arches, which support the copper exterior roofing, help protect the pavilions from being swept away by a tornado, an unnerving threat in this part of the country.

Safdie’s design protects many familiar works, such as Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter,” and an Andy Warhol portrait of Dolly Parton. There is a 1797 Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, one of the most recognizable images in the museum.

It takes about four hours to go through the galleries at a modest pace, plenty of time for young children to become restless. The museum offers a hands-on children’s area, and one of the “bridges” is home to Cafe Eleven, where patrons can find the coffee bar or eat a meal.

Across a courtyard is the Crystal Bridges Museum Store, which is stocked with a good selection of books, regional crafts and other items.

The trails outside, which are dotted with sculptures, take additional time. It would be easy to make the museum and grounds a two-day visit, while also catching Bentonville’s downtown square, which is about a 10-minute walk from Crystal Bridges.

Downtown offers cafes, shops and the original Walton’s 5&10 store, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s early retail venture that evolved into the world’s largest retailer. The site is now a museum.

Farther afield, there are other sights to see, such as the Pea Ridge National Military Park, which marks the site of a Civil War battle. The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad offers March through September excursion trains between Springdale (20 miles south of Bentonville) and Van Buren/Fort Smith.

About 40 miles east of Bentonville is Eureka Springs, a resort town filled with galleries, restaurants and shops.


If You Go…

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