Crystal Bridges Announces New Venue “The Momentary” and Its Director

LIeven Bertels
Lieven Bertels, the new director of the Momentary at Crystal Bridges. (Photo: Prudence Upton)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, has hired Lieven Bertels as director of its new art venue planned for downtown Bentonville. Dubbed the MomentaryTM, the project will transform, a là MASS MoCA, a decommissioned Kraft Foods plan into a multidisciplinary visual and performing arts venue and artist residency program. The Chicago firm Wheeler Kearns Architects is overseeing the adaptive reuse project. The Momentary is currently in the design development phase, with site work and construction scheduled to begin in early 2018. The opening is projected for 2020.

The arts venue was named the Momentary, and trademarked, after fieldwork and research was conducted by FÖDA, a brand consultancy and design studio in Austin.

Bertels will be responsible for all activities related to the Momentary, including planning and development for the facility as well as artistic direction and day-to-day operations.

The Momentary at Crystal Bridges.
Rendering of the new design for the Momentary, a new venue for Crystal Bridges in a former Kraft factory building.
The Momentaray rendering
Rendering of the new design for the Momentary, showing the former loading dock.

Though Bertels has an international background that would seem to make a move to Northwest Arkansas a culture shock, he most recent gig may have prepared him. He was the CEO and cultural director of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 European Capital of Culture, a year-long festival in the Netherlands that focuses on the arts in a rural context. Prior to that, he was the festival director for Sydney Festival in Australia for five years, and artistic coordinator at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam for six years.

“Along with international arts experience and a history of successful leadership, he brings a strong background in performance art and fresh ideas about ways to expand the cultural impact of the arts in our region and beyond. His work in Leeuwarden, at Sydney Festival and in Bruges demonstrate his ability to advance projects that are culturally transformative,” says Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director & Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Kraft plant building in Bentonville
View of the Kraft plant that will become home to the Momentary.
Kraft plant in Bentonville.
Interior view of the Kraft plant, showing spaces that will lend themselves well to large-scale installations.

Bertels says:. “The Momentary is poised to be an international destination that demonstrates how contemporary American art and artists intersect with daily life around the globe. The Momentary will push boundaries of creativity, blur urban and rural lines, and provide access to arts-based experiences in a comfortable and well-designed social space. This is a truly exciting project not just for the region but for arts communities at large.”

According to the press release, “the project will be supported by the Walton Family Foundation as part of its mission to help Northwest Arkansas become one of the best places to live in the nation. The development of the Momentary is a continuation of the family’s commitment to make art accessible in the heartland of America, and continues in the vein of founding Crystal Bridges as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy.”

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