Reinvention 2

Inside the Crystal Bridges Museum
Inside the Crystal Bridges Museum

Last weekend I caught another town in the process of reinventing itself.

Bentonville, Arkansas, is an intriguing mix of old and new. Its historic town square and charming old neighborhoods belie its status as WalMart’s world headquarters.

I visited Bentonville with members of my book club to see the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in 2011. It was worth the three-hour drive. Designed by the architect Moshe Safdie, the museum houses a world-class art collection.

We followed the Crystal Bridges Walking Trail to the museum from our hotel. The hotel itself, called the 21c Museum Hotel, housed an impressive collection of modern art. First, though, we ate lunch at a crepe stand owned by French immigrants.

Where was the border between old and new, I wondered. Was it between the crepe stand and its neighbor, the barbecue truck? Or perhaps between the restaurant dining room full of visitors and the attached bar with the local crowd?

Not that it mattered. We never felt unwelcome. Still, I wondered how the locals felt when the museum was first announced by Alice Walton. Did they all say, “Good. More jobs for us”? Or were there a few who wailed, “This will change everything!”

That’s how it is when we reinvent ourselves. Change, even the change we call “growth”, brings both pleasure and pain. We’re risking the past on an uncertain future, and risk is unsettling.

I’m glad the people of Bentonville took a risk on the museum. It’s a treasure.

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