BENTONVILLE — It’s been said in art and tourism circles that the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will bring people to Bentonville who might never otherwise take the initiative to visit.
That’s the case with Linda Haney and Pam Frary, a pair of members (and docents) from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wis., who were in town this week to visit Crystal Bridges for the first time. The touring group included about two dozen Woodson members and staff.
Kathy Foley, the Woodson’s director and “traveler in chief,” describes the organized museum travel trips as a tremendous friend-building experience.
The trips cause members to become more interested in their museums, often causing them to invest more of themselves and their money.
“Museums have taken a lesson out of the college and university playbook,” Foley said.
Other cultural destinations have included the Hudson River Valley of New York, Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Holland and Charleston, S.C., among many others. Seats on the trips are offered first to museum members — “our pool of preferred travelers,” Foley calls them — then to others, if there’s room.
The goal “is to exceed travelers’ expectations,” she said.
After touching down at Tulsa International Airport, the Wisconsin group’s packed five-day itinerary started and ended in Tulsa, home of the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Gilcrease Museum, a plethora of art deco architecture and Route 66 landmarks.
Foley said it was Bentonville’s proximity to Tulsa that sealed the deal for a day at Crystal Bridges. The easy trip was brought to her attention in a profile on museum founder Alice Walton in the New Yorker magazine.
Haney, 71, is a faithful museum-goer because her parents never took her as a child. This is her third museum trip with the troop from the Woodson.
Foley, who had already been to Crystal Bridges, had sent Haney a copy of a promotional video featuring Walton and Crystal Bridges executive director Don Bacigalupi that was used on the day the museum opened. Haney said she thought the video was “cute” and that it moved her to go online and learn more about Crystal Bridges.
She doesn’t recall ever coming to Arkansas before and says she probably would not have come here if it had not been for the museum trip.
Frary has been a docent at the Woodson for more than 30 years and describes her husband, Gary, and herself as “museum hunters.”
“It’s really going to out a face on your area in a different way,” she said of Crystal Bridges.
While here, the group had lunch at the museum’s restaurant, Eleven, toured the galleries and nature trails and perused the gift shop. Each was given the option to ride or walk the 1.5-mile stretch to the Bentonville Square for dinner at Table Mesa.
Cost of the trip was advertised at $2,672 per person (double occupancy) for museum members and $2,772 for non-members, including airfare between Wisconsin and Tulsa.
This fall, the group is putting together two eight-day museum travel tours to trendy Cuba, which is closed to most individual U.S. travelers.