story and photos by Emily Hilley-Sierzchula
At Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, more than 700 people celebrated the dawning of the new year with more than standard-issue champagne and fireworks.
The museum held its inaugural New Year’s Eve party, NEW 365, Tuesday night (Dec. 31), counting on gourmet food and coffee, libations, and an eclectic mix of activities to attract people to the event. Partygoers lined up for tarot card readings.
Another offbeat activity, the “silent disco,” was new to Northwest Arkansas, said Case Dighero, director of culinary services at Crystal Bridges. People danced to music on wireless headphones.
"It's interesting to the people participating and also to spectators because they‘re not hearing music but they‘re watching people dancing crazily,” he said.
Music was another example of the diversity to be experienced at the event. In the Eleven restaurant people enjoyed blues and rock ‘n’ roll from Fayetteville award-winning musicians Leah & the Mojo Doctors; meanwhile, in the Great Hall people danced to the techno rhythms of DJ Havok.
Food was also highly varied. Dighero described Eleven’s food as “high South cuisine with Ozark sophistication.” The myriad of cuisine included Cubano sliders, Reuben sammies, lobster rolls and pork belly steamed buns.
Meanwhile, galleries stayed open until 10:30.
“We've threatened to do a New Year's Eve party for the last two years, but we opted out because we were a new institution and really busy,” Dighero said. “We felt like this year was the time to strike.”
One of the goals of the event was to give people a “new perspective” on the new year. “Part of the idea of renewal in the new year is the tarot card readers,” Dighero said. “I did a reading about a week and a half ago and it’s almost a cliché how people walk away going, ‘wow, that was spot on,’ but it was really interesting.”
Drunken driving on New Year’s Eve was a concern for all Northwest Arkansans and venues that hosted parties. Crystal Bridges tried to prevent drunken driving by keeping people fed, having coffee available, having cab company numbers clearly posted in the brochure, having shuttles to some hotels, and security personnel were watching for signs of overindulgence, Dighero said.
“Bartenders keep a close eye on people,” Dighero said. “We rotate bartenders around the several bar areas” to account for guests moving to different areas. “Of course, staff and bartenders have been through alcohol training,” he said.
Dighero said he hopes NEW 365 will become an annual event at the museum. “Each year we hope that it will get bigger and better and more liberating for our guests,” he said.
Tickets were $68 for museum members and $85 for other guests.