The top tourist destination in Arkansas this week expects to welcome its 1 millionth visitor just 21 months after its opening.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, recognized as one of the nation’s top art museums for its incredible art collection as well as its lush outdoor setting just blocks from the downtown Bentonville square, blew away estimates that it would draw 150,000 to 300,000 guests a year.
Arts patron Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and an honorary lifetime member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, founded the museum.
“There’s no question that Crystal Bridges has had a big effect on Arkansas tourism,” said Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “The unprecedented media attention and the ensuing visitation are certainly welcome, but the impact goes beyond that. Maybe of equal importance is the pride that Arkansans are showing in Crystal Bridges. I think this museum has convinced our residents that Arkansas is, indeed, a fascinating destination, that we can attract folks from around the world and offer them a uniquely memorable experience.
“I’m not sure that was one of Alice’s objectives, but Arkansans are exhibiting a sense of ownership in Crystal Bridges – and I think that’s a very good thing.”
Crystal Bridges received 650,000 guests in its first year.
To put that visitation in perspective nationally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York draws more than 6 million guests annually and it’s the second busiest museum in the world.
The New York art museum is one of only 14 in the U.S. to draw more than 750,000 visitors a year. They are all in some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas: New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
“Reaching one million visitors just 21 months after our opening is a huge milestone for us,” said Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow. “From the day we opened our doors, our goal has been to welcome visitors to experience the power of art and the beauty of nature, and we’re thankful to have been able to create these connections with such a vast audience. The museum has had a warm welcome from visitors not only throughout our region, but from across the globe; we’re grateful to each and every visitor for being ‘one in a million,’ and making this a vibrant, exciting place to be.”
Of those one million Crystal Bridges visitors, 64 percent were from Arkansas, and some 20 percent came from the six nearby states: Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. About 16 percent hailed from other states in the U.S. and global addresses.