Who We Are
The Momentary, a satellite to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, is a contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville for visual, performing, and culinary arts. Occupying a decommissioned 63,000-square-foot cheese factory, the Momentary serves as a gathering place to relax, work, eat and drink, and discover today’s art through programs, exhibitions, festivals, and more.
The mission of the Momentary is to champion contemporary art’s role in everyday life and explore the unfolding story of contemporary American arts in an international context by actively commissioning and exhibiting outstanding works that explore new ideas and inspire action.
As Crystal Bridges and the Momentary, we recognize our role as settlers and guests in the Northwest Arkansas region. We acknowledge the Caddo, Quapaw, and Osage as well as the many Indigenous caretakers of this land and water. We appreciate the enduring influence of the vibrant, diverse, and contemporary cultures of Indigenous peoples. We are conscious of the role in colonization that museums have played. As cultural institutions, we have a responsibility to engage in the dismantling of historical and systemic invisibility of Indigenous peoples past, present, and future. We choose to intentionally hold ourselves accountable to appropriate conversation, representation, connection, and education to facilitate a space of measurable change.
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!