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History

Who We Are

The Momentary is conceived as a platform for the art, food, and music of our time; a catalyst for creativity and economic vitality; and a welcoming hub that gathers and celebrates local heroes and international stars.

By art, we mean the full expanse of creative expression today: sculpture, video, painting, film, dance, theater and ever-evolving new media formats, many of which remain to be imagined. But perhaps even more, we mean immersive installations and performances that are absorbing of mind and body, works as stimulating to experience in the moment—with others present by our side—as they are impossible to describe or upload. Even as we embrace technologies that augment and sometimes supplant reality, a visit to the Momentary should always be a thrilling reminder of the primacy of IRL experiences.

By food, we mean innovative meals savored with friends in our cafes, galleries and courtyards, but we also mean the best cup of coffee in the world, caught between RØDE House acts, or a meticulously prepared cocktail served in one of the nation’s most refined bars, six stories up, overlooking the Ozarks, or authentic Arkansas BBQ from the food trucks that enliven the fast-growing neighborhoods around us. At the Momentary, we believe that food and drink are an essential expression of culture and creativity; we advance that belief through a year-round series of curated food events that expand our palettes and increase our culinary skills during multi-course dinners, informal cookouts, and lively festivals that are part-party, part-epicurean adventure.

By music, we mean all kinds: indie rock, hip-hop, experimental electronica, salsa, jazz, R&B, alt-country, progressive folk, soul, and exciting new forms of sonic culture that defy categorization. Across every genre, and within each performance, live music attracts and catalyzes diverse audiences into brand new  communities, also bringing longtime fans into new cultural contexts. At the Momentary we celebrate and advance this interaction of sound, people and place by presenting music all year round, and across our entire campus—galleries, stages, and outdoor venues both large and small. No matter the setting or scale, expect to hear music that is moving (and that will frequently make you move), performed by the most important talents of our day, some already famous, and some—from our own backyard—soon to be.

And finally, by “you,” we mean, quite simply, everybody. We hope your participation in the life of the Momentary will be active, not passive. If we think of most museums as a protective box, we hope you’ll think of the Momentary as an open platform…or better yet as “two turntables and a microphone,” to quote one artist we admire. We hope, that is, that you will belong not only as a patron of the arts, but also as energetic user-owner of our galleries, performance venues, bars, cafes, courtyards, bike trails and park-like grounds. Weddings, private parties, bike expos, business conferences, health and wellness convocations: we view these and other special events as part of a rich matrix of social, cultural and physical activities that define the Momentary as a member and maker of community, as an accelerator of economic prosperity, and as a magnet for the widest possible array of people and new ideas, far and wide.

You belong here: make the most of this moment.

 

Our History

The Momentary opened to the public on February 22, 2020. It was founded by the Walton family, based on the vision of Tom, Olivia, and Steuart Walton. The Walton Family Foundation is supporting this project as a way to enhance the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas. Its commitment to cultivating arts and cultural experiences provides more opportunities for education, engagement, and enjoyment in our region.

The building, formerly a cheese plant, was repurposed into a contemporary art space by Wheeler Kearns Architects. The team approached this as an adaptive reuse project, meaning they kept most of the existing building intact, only adding elements when necessary. In this way, they minimized their carbon footprint and use of materials while preserving a piece of Bentonville history.

Our Building’s History

The site of the Momentary has a recorded history, thanks to the work of University of Arkansas Honors College and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences students Sydney Nichols, Emily Snyder, and Darci Walton.

The earliest recorded history we have of the site is in 1673 when the Osage encountered French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet. The site of the Momentary is part of the Osage hunting grounds. In the 1700s, the Osage formed trading relationships with the French and the Spanish in the region, becoming a critical source of food, animal hides, and other commodities for European settlements.

An Osage woman named Mo-Hon-Go was part of a group of seven Osage who traveled to France in 1827. The Osage were initially treated well but soon found themselves abandoned in a strange land. Their plight came to the attention of the Marquis de Lafayette who paid for their return to the United States. Arkansas became a state in 1836.

In the nineteenth century, Benton County was becoming known for its agricultural success with produce such as apples and strawberries. The site had several landowners throughout the years, including a renowned architect named Charles A. Blanck. Blanck purchased approximately 40 acres in Benton County in 1889 with the intention of creating a neighborhood community close to Bentonville’s town center. This plot of land included the site where the Momentary is located today. Bentonville’s 1903 Atlas depicts the division of Blanck’s apple orchard on the site—a notable addition that has carried through the site’s history.

In 1947, Kraft built a cheese factory on the grounds. The first employee was Marie Smith, a laboratory technician. Later that year, it opened to the community with a large celebration that included tours of the plant and a parade of Kraft milk trucks through downtown Bentonville. The plant evolved throughout its years of production, and individual dairy farmers from around Northwest Arkansas provided the milk to the plant that was then used to make cheese. The plant closed in 2013.

In 2016, Crystal Bridges announced plans to repurpose the cheese factory into a satellite contemporary art space by Wheeler Kearns Architects, led by Calli Verkamp, lead project architect and honors graduate of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture.

In 2018, Oklahoma-based artist Addie Roanhorse became the first artist commissioned to create a work of art for the Momentary. Her arrow pattern artwork, called Sway, is featured on the exterior glass of the Tower, the Container, and main entryway. A member of the Osage Nation, Roanhorse took inspiration from Osage attire to create the pattern, paying homage to the history of the land around the Momentary. With this artwork, we invite all to think about the Indigenous peoples with a connection to Northwest Arkansas.

On February 22, 2020, we opened our doors to the public for the first time. Come help us write the next chapter!

Annual Report