Crystal Bridges Museum, reaching beyond northwest Arkansas

    10:58 PM, Dec 16, 2011   |    comments
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    • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

    LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is putting Arkansas on the map. It's been a little more than a month since the grand opening in Bentonville and state tourism leaders say the crowds continue to come from all over. 

    We're told lots of folks are visiting from Arkansas but also from other parts of the country like Minnesota and Oregon, and even overseas from Norway and Sweden.  

    State Tourism Director Joe David Rice says there are indications that visitors are sticking around Arkansas and seeing what the rest of the state has to offer. Rice shared one story with us about a group from an Atlanta art museum doing just that. And going forward, he only expects that to continue.

    When the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened last month, it brought major fanfare with Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton leading the project. And there have been thousands of visitors since.

    "Numbers are really strong, just over 45,000 in slightly over a month," Rice said.

    Rice was just at the museum Thursday and said, "We did a little survey and about the first 60 cars we saw, ten of them were from out of state."

    And Rice says it appears a stop at the Crystal Bridges Museum is just one part of an Arkansas visit.

    "Indications are that we're going to have people coming to Northwest Arkansas to see Crystal Bridges and a lot of them are going to come on down to Central Arkansas because they've heard good things about the Arkansas Arts Center, the Clinton Library and they're fans of Heifer International," Rice said.

    Rice says the Spa City should benefit too from Crystal Bridges. 

    "Hot Springs has a reputation of becoming one of the up-and-coming arts communities in the country," Rice said.

    A new ad campaign this spring hopes to drive the migration even more in new magazines like Fortune, Forbes and Elle Décor. They are hitting new markets like Chicago, Houston and Atlanta.

    State Economist Michael Pakko says it all bodes wells for the tourism industry and more.

    "On the margin, having an extra cultural amenity in the region is a drawing card that potential employers look at as something as a positive," Pakko said.

    It's a nice bonus and part of the canvass of this museum's impact.

    Since opening, Rice also said the museum is getting big press in major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Dallas Morning News.

    As for the marketing campaign, there are three main players behind it right now: the State Parks and Tourism Department, the Crystal Bridges Museum itself and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. But Rice tells us that they are also seeking funding from some major businesses in the state to beef up the ads even more.

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