Copyright 2011 Ben S. Pollock
We are here for the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, although Ms. Britches prefers calling it the Raveenia Museum, the Ozark Museum of Other People’s Art (o’MOPA), in Bentonville, Ark.
Below begins the live blog. She’ll dictate, and I’ll write. Readers unfamiliar with Crystal Britches should understand she is a philanthropist “of a certain age” living in Fayetteville. Ark. Like her friend since childhood Alice Walton (well, they’re close confidantes some years and other periods, well …), Ms. Britches prefers behind-the-scenes acts of charity, manipulation and activism — whatever it takes for the Ozarks to realize its potential without compromise. “Which is a total contradiction!” she says laughing raucously. I should note the mid-day — nearing 60 degrees — is perfect for Crystal’s plastic pants over loose khaki shorts, the better to show off her older but still firm showgirl legs.
Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. Posts by Crystal Britches, straight chrono order
10:47 a.m. Museum creator Alice Walton — you go, girl! — and her architect Moshe Safdie walk to the front row from the street to the right. Who are those other dignitaries, Noah? Oh, Mayor Bob McCaslin with Arkansas Secretary of State Dustin McDaniel. What, Gov. Mike Beebe blew Alice off?
Looking around: This is a portable but rather large stage, with metal roof and also shade mesh hanging on the back and rear sides. The sound quality is top notch. As it should be. To the audience’s left is a portable Jumbotron, although it may be another brand.
The official Crystal Bridges promotion tent has stacks of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s 32-page supplement from Nov. 6, “Crystal Bridges: An American Spirit.” As well as commemorative rubber wristbands, museum brochures, special regional magazines and a pamphlet from a local bed & breakfast. Why that particular B&B?
The security is everywhere — city police, Wal-Mart badged security, unlabeled but uniformed guards. Who knows how many plainclothes, right? You, Noah? [Absolutely not]. Hon’, I’m joking! Go ‘occupy’ some place this weekend.
The program’s announcer, with a clear baritone voice, is not visible.
Show was intended to open, obviously, at 10:45. neither the advertised 10:30 or 11. Well, the 11 o’clock is technically correct, when the talks apparently will start.
The Square is crowded, but not as full as I’d expected, half full — the bystanders start in front of the near side of the Confederate statue. Where, oddly, is a Keep Off the Grass brass plaque. Dears, Bentonville is so unlike Fayetteville. My city has gorgeous landscaping in its common areas and it expects its residents to not be idiot slobs, not needing signage, and we don’t.
The Bentonville High School choir has been on stage and performs five songs. Aren’t they sweet? So grown up in their long black dress and black tuxedos.
11:04 a.m. Bagpiper Harriett Sisson. Very fine playing.
Invocation by the Rev. H.D. McCarty, very distinguished older Fayetteville gent in an Air Force uniform. He notes injured soldiers, and emphasizes we should pray about the increased suicides among military. Acknowledges members of other faiths who are in the crowd. Unexpected but appreciated.
The high school choir returns with “Simple Gifts.”
11:20 a.m. Col. Troy Galloway, now with city of B’ville and in a National Guard dress uniform, delivers remarks mainly about Veterans Day but also the museum. Not the mayor?
11:30 a.m. The National Anthem is sung by soprano Leona Mitchell, after she does “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Her voice is gorgeous, more of a mezzo for these songs, but why have prerecorded instrumental background for her. It’s not karaoke out here!
City third-graders lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Several are looking around silently, instead, but with smiles — the revolutionaries of tomorrow.
On stage now is museum Executive Director Don Bacigalupi, and the children and teens have left. Hey, the museum logo is off the front of the lectern. Did the wind take it?
Bacigalupi proves to be a warm speaker with gentle self-deprecating wit. He introduces a one-minute video of former President Bill Clinton, noting that Bill visited recently and toured the galleries but was unable to be here today. On the clip, WJC calls Alice “a close friend.”
11:42 a.m. Safdie, you’re up. “The great architect Louis Sullivan said, “There is no great building without a great client.’ Alice Walton is such a client,” he says, and he concludes, “I hope Crystal Bridges gives you [we the public] many years of service,” having named and thanked a number of designers both in and outside his office, engineers and contractors. He’s on just three minutes or so.
11:47 a.m. Don intros Alice. Alice? I understand the shades, but really, dear. You are so beautiful and your outfit just right. But those round sunglasses. For five minutes you couldn’t have squinted so we could see your wondrous feminine eyes?
Alice’s speech flows so eloquently I forget to listen or take good notes. Noah, how about you? [Noah Vale writing: This is a well prepared opening section of goals for the museum, being education and culture and what should be so good for the community and indeed the nation.] She lists acknowledgments of people, organizations and corporations, giving special note to the Northwest Arkansas Council. Last, Alice thanks the 5,000-plus inaugural members of her museum.
11:58 a.m. Don returns to the microphone and begs us repeatedly to stay a moment more. The museum logo has not been replaced on the lecturn. On the big screen is a video with thunderous Hollywood movie music. An object is moved from J.B. Hunt truck to a Tyson Foods truck to a Wal-Mart Stores truck and finally to Don who walks the object inside the museum lobby. Puts it on the counter and Alice unveils it to be a 3-foot wide, neon sign reading, all lit up, “OPEN.”
Just then two jets from above the stage spit out white ribbons of confetti.
Last, a red uniformed pep band (some three dozen members) of the University of Arkansas march in with a drum cadence, play some four pieces and march away with another cadence — just quarter notes on the drum rims.
It is a little after noon. I didn’t want to take tickets from the better healed members of the public today, so neither Noah nor I will go down the hill to the Raveenia until later in the weekend. After all, this is Alice’s big day.