BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A shuttered Kraft Foods plant in Arkansas will be transformed into a performance and visual arts space thanks to an investment by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that was founded by Wal-Mart family heiress Alice Walton.
Museum officials announced Wednesday that the revamped Bentonville plant will feature film, theater, music and contemporary visual arts and an artist-in-residence-program. The 63,000-square-foot space is scheduled to open in 2018.
Officials said the idea for the new space blossomed from the 2014 "State of the Art" exhibit at Crystal Bridges for which curators met with more than 1,000 artists around the country. The museum will work with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to develop programming for the facility, but Crystal Bridges curators said they already have potential art in need of show space thanks to the 2014 exhibit.
Tom Walton of the Walton Family Foundation, nephew of the Crystal Bridges founder, will help oversee the development of the project.
In a letter to the foundation's Home Region stakeholders group — a program that invests in quality-of-life initiatives in northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas Delta— Tom Walton said the space would attract people to the area for reasons beyond economic opportunity and help keep them.
"This experimental space will be a living room for the community, sitting at the intersection of art and everyday life," he said.
Dana Davis, CEO of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce, said the Walton family's investment in downtown Bentonville has furthered revitalization efforts and made the city more competitive in seeking young professionals. Tom Walton previously announced that the foundation would work with NorthWest Arkansas Community College to bring a culinary arts program to a former Tyson plant not far from the Kraft plant.
"We are seeing another opportunity for the arts community to grow and become even more a part of the fabric of downtown Bentonville," Davis said. "Crystal Bridges is an integral part of the community that has driven tourism and quality of life for residents."
Crystal Bridges has had more than 2 million visitors since it opened in 2011.