Film premieres documenting the art of Crystal Bridges

story and photos by April Robertson
arobertson@thecitywire.com

BENTONVILLE — The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will celebrate the first full year of its operation on Veterans Day with a series of screenings of The Art of Crystal Bridges.

The documentary, which is about the making of the museum, was created by local filmmakers and narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen. It premiered Friday (Nov. 9).

“In our first year of operation, we far surpassed expectations,” said Laura Jacobs, director of communications at the museum. “In the first year, we had 600,000 people visit and we had prepared for 250,000.

The museum has developed a strong following with creative ways to allow the public to interact with the art, according to museum officials. The success perhaps is reflected in its membership, a total of 7,500 households, which includes full families, couples and individuals. The museum hoped to have 3,000 members in the first year.

“The public response has been phenomenal,” Jacobs said. “We’ve learned a lot events they want to be a part of through our programs offered and everyone’s reasons for being here are different.”

Among the year’s most popular exhibits were “Wonder World,” which featured contemporary pieces; “Hudson River School,” which was on loan from the New York Historical Society; the Declaration of Independence, which drew audiences from all around on the Fourth of July and many more.

Filmmakers Dale Carpenter, Larry Foley and Hayot Tuychiev, as well as soundtrack composer James Greeson, were present for the premiere and participated in an interactive question and answer session with the audience.

When the documentary team began filming, the goal was to “capture the spirit of putting Crystal Bridges together,” said Larry Foley, professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas. “We wanted to focus on the art, the site, the collections and the stories behind the art.”

The team began shooting the film in November of 2009 and production took not quite two years. During that period of time, technology changed and the crew adjusted with it.

“We started with HD cameras and moved on to higher end cameras as we went along,” said Hayot Tuychiev, filmmaker and instructor of journalism at the University of Arkansas.

Just as the museum was built to compliment the beauty of the Arkansan landscape and highlight the talents of various American artists, the film was also made to showcase the natural state.

“We have four seasons here and we like to get all of them (in the filming) because that’s part of who we are,” Foley said. “In winter, shooting was very cold. In March, it was very very rainy. In summer, it was 105 degrees on one of the days we were shooting.”

Composer James Greeson has worked with the documentarians on a number of films, so his process for creating custom soundtracks is well versed. He starts with a general idea, when Foley or Carpenter refer him to a piece of music that captures the feel of the music they seek.

“With that, I get a sense of what’s going on,” Greeson said. “I start writing music when the film is done, then I have images to help. It’s interesting and appealing to coordinate the music time wise and with keeping images in mind.”

What else is next for the documentary? The Art of Crystal Bridges will air on AETN Nov. 15 and 21. Additional screenings will take place at the Hot Springs Film Festival, the Fayetteville Public Library on Nov. 29, and national distribution is a possibility.

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In the museum’s second year, Jacobs says there are many exciting things to come.

“In January, we’ll have another Art Night Out event centered around the See the Light exhibit, as it is coming to a close,” Jacobs said. “We want to keep them engaged.”

Link here for more information about the museum’s first year.

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