More than 700 gather at Crystal Bridges to celebrate the New Year

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.

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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.

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This event was Spectacular! - This is our special moment

First let me say this event was spectacular! Secondly, thank you so much for capturing our moment at the Tarot card reading table and including us in your article. - Elissa and I love the museum and toured it early in our relationship. We took pictures at the Love statue as I'm sure many thousands have. I had been pondering for several months trying to decide where and when to propose. When I heard that Crystal Bridges was going to be hosting this event I immediately knew this was the time and place! The event itself was wonderful - even when we felt like we had done or seen everything it was impossible to be bored in a place so beautiful. - Just after midnight I prompted our small group to go out to the Love statue for one last round of pictures. I had let our good friends Katie Hembree and Nick Martin (who will soon be married) in on my plans and they graciously agreed to help with the moment. We first took pictures of them, and then I led Elissa to the statue for our pictures. It was cold out and she was adorably gorgeous wearing my suit coat which swallowed her up. We took a few pictures and at the last moment as we were about to walk away I pulled her back and kneeled to one knee. Taken completely by surprise it took her a moment to realize what was happening but once she did she started repeating "yes, yes, yes!" before I could even get my words out! I said to her, "you have given me the best year of my life and I know I want to spend the rest of them with you. Will you marry me?” She continued saying yes and we hugged, kissed, took some more pictures and then essentially floated our way out of the venue on our own personal cloud of smiles and adrenaline. It was beyond perfect! - The venue, staff, food, beverages, and other attendees of Crystal Bridges inaugural New Year’s Eve party all contributed to making this night the absolute best ending to one amazing year and the best beginning to a New Year and new chapter of our life together. Thank you so much to everyone that contributed. Your work was very well done!