Free Entry At Crystal Bridges Nov. 11 – Jan. 2

Admission to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be free, but patrons will need a ticket if they plan to visit from opening day on Nov. 11 until Jan. 2.

Crystal Bridges staff on Wednesday began accepting ticket requests from museum members. Those who aren’t members may reserve tickets starting on Oct. 17 to tour the Bentonville museum.

“A museum is not complete until there are people in it,” said Kathryn Roberts, the museum’s director of member and guest services. “By opening our doors to our community, we are bringing the museum to life. We expect it to be a place of great excitement and activity.”

As of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, 296 of the museum’s 4,445 members had reserved tickets by phone, another 1,530 tickets were booked online and 200 phone messages were waiting to be processed, Roberts said. Members are reserving tickets for a 25-hour preview, which runs from 9 a.m. Nov.9 to 10 a.m. Nov. 10. Members on Wednesday also made reservations for visits to the museum on opening day and through Jan. 2.

“Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas will transform into a world-renowned destination because of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art,” said Kalene Griffith, president of the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s nothing that has opened up to this caliber. We don’t have a comparison.”

Members are from across the United States, from California to Maine, Roberts said.

When making a reservation, patrons should provide a name or member ID number, the number of people in the party and the date and time of the planned visit, Roberts said. Tickets are required to prevent congestion in the galleries and to allow guests to travel through the galleries which are set up chronologically.

The museum expects to accommodate 12,000 guests during the 25-hour preview,and 2,000 guests daily when the museum opens. Visitors can reserve tickets for every half hour. Museum hours on opening day, Nov. 11, will be from 12:30-10 p.m. The museum will be closed Tuesdays. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Every visitor who is at least 1 year old needs a ticket.

The Crystal Bridges website recommends that visitors arrive 30 minutes prior to the time on their ticket, but there is no time limit on the amount of time visitors can stay in the museum.

“Truly, there is much more here to be taken in and enjoyed than can be fully appreciated in a single visit,” Roberts said. “To make the most of the first visit, I suggest guests take their time, discuss their favorite works among their party, and share their experience.”

With the anticipated crowds and the requirement to have tickets, Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, said his advice is to wait until early 2012 to visit Crystal Bridges.

“It’s going to be an attraction unlike any we’ve ever had,” Rice said Wednesday. “There’s just sort of a groundswell of interest.”

Many are comparing Crystal Bridges with the Clinton Presidential Center, which opened in November 2004 in Little Rock, Rice said. The center, which houses the presidential library and exhibits, served as a catalyst for growth in Little Rock. The center maintained a high level of traffic for more than a year, and while visits may have leveled off, interest is steady because exhibits change several times a year, he said.

Rice anticipates that Crystal Bridges will have an even broader appeal and will create a buzz for many, many months, he said.

“This is the art that we all grew up seeing in our history books and art books,” Rice said.

Meeting planners often schedule conferences at least a year in advance, and the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau receives calls daily about planners who are interested in coming to Northwest Arkansas because of Crystal Bridges, said Griffith of the Bentonville visitors bureau.

“They were waiting for it to open up,” Griffith said.

The Bentonville bureau will collaborate with Crystal Bridges staff to ensure that visitors coming within the first seven weeks know that tickets are required, she said. Not only is the museum a draw for its art that is known nationally and internationally, but also for its architecture and its forested setting nestled around two creek-fed ponds.

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