Choos­ing a Chi­huly

Crys­tal Bridges of­fers chance to vote on glass piece it keeps

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ROB­BIE NEISWANGER

Vis­i­tors look at Sole d’Oro by Dave Chi­huly in July at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in Ben­tonville. Crys­tal Bridges plans to buy one of the glass sculp­tures in the Chi­huly ex­hi­bi­tion. Vis­i­tors will get a chance to select which one as part of a con­test be­gin­ning this week.

BEN­TONVILLE — Lisa Brence and Shane Kin­niell have a spe­cial con­nec­tion to glass sculp­tor Dale Chi­huly’s Sole d’Oro on dis­play at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art.

The ob­ject was the back­drop to a per­sonal mo­ment for the North­west Arkansas cou­ple on July 23, when Kin­niell dropped to one knee and asked Brence to marry him. So Brence said Chi­huly’s in­tri­cate sculp­ture, with its 1,300 pieces of twist­ing and curl­ing hand­blown glass, will hold a per­ma­nent place in their hearts as they move for­ward in their lives to­gether.

“I don’t know where that piece will end up be­cause these are trav­el­ing ex­hibits,” Brence said. “But it’s a piece we’re go­ing to fol­low.

Wher­ever that ends up, any­where in the world … that’s ours.”

Brence and Kin­niell may not have to go far to keep track of it. There’s a chance Sole d’Oro will find a per­ma­nent home at Crys­tal Bridges as the mu­seum pre­pares to ac­quire one of the pieces that have been on dis­play as part of its “Chi­huly: In the Gallery and in the For­est” tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tion.

The Ben­tonville mu­seum has de­cided to add one of the glass sculp­tor’s most pop­u­lar works to its col­lec­tion and has nar­rowed the choices to four pieces, in­clud­ing Sole d’Oro. The oth­ers are the Azure Ici­cle Chan­de­lier hang­ing from the mu­seum’s gallery bridge, the Fiori Boat full of col­or­ful glass on the out­door trail, and the Ni­ijima Floats drift­ing in Crys­tal Pond.

But there’s a twist: Crys­tal Bridges won’t select which of the four ob­jects to pur­chase from the Chi­huly team. It is leav­ing that por­tion of the process to the public, who have two weeks to de­cide which of Chi­huly’s works will re­main a per­ma­nent fix­ture when the ex­hibit ends.

Rod Bigelow, the mu­seum’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the de­ci­sion to in­clude the public on the pur­chas­ing process, in part, is be­cause of the ex­hi­bi­tion’s pop­u­lar­ity since open­ing in late May.

“Ev­ery­one on our team have heard from guests about how ex­cited they are about the ex­hi­bi­tion and there has been a re­ally pos­i­tive out­cry to keep it all, which is not pos­si­ble,” Bigelow said. “But you have to keep some­thing. So our cu­ra­to­rial team has gone through this rig­or­ous process that they do when we col­lect work. They didn’t have go to all the way to the fi­nal ob­ject, but they did the work to iden­tify which four works would have a big im­pact and have a some­what sig­nif­i­cant scale.”

Crys­tal Bridges is an­nounc­ing the plan to get the public in­volved in an ac­qui­si­tion as the gallery por­tion of the indoor-out­door ex­hi­bi­tion pre­pares to close on Aug. 14. The out­door por­tion, on the mu­seum’s newly ren­o­vated North For­est Trail, re­mains on view un­til Nov. 13.

The dual ex­hi­bi­tion at Crys­tal Bridges has fea­tured 300 ob­jects span­ning Chi­huly’s 50-year ca­reer and was part of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the sculp­tor and his team in Seattle.

Chi­huly and mem­bers of his team first toured Crys­tal Bridges in 2013, lay­ing the ground­work for an ex­hi­bi­tion that has put both iconic and new cre­ations on dis­play in Ben­tonville.

Bigelow be­lieves the re­sponse to the ex­hi­bi­tion has been “in­cred­i­ble.” The mu­seum said more than 106,000 guests have vis­ited the indoor and out­door por­tions so far dur­ing its 11-week run. Crys­tal Bridges also hosted 87,000 to­tal guests in July, a record for the mu­seum.

Cou­ples like Brence and Kin­niell were en­gaged in front of Chi­huly’s work. Mu­si­cian Sh­eryl Crow posed for a pic­ture in front of the Ni­ijima Floats at Crys­tal Pond dur­ing a tour stop in North­west Arkansas last month. The mu­seum even hosted a wed­ding be­neath the Azure Ici­cle Chan­de­lier.

Mem­ber­ship has spiked as well. There were 9,164 mem­bers on April 30, roughly one month be­fore the Chi­huly ex­hi­bi­tion opened to the public. The num­ber grew to 13,354 as of July 1.

“I think peo­ple have jumped in and wanted to be part of the mu­seum as part of this ex­hi­bi­tion,” Bigelow said. “I think that’s a great thing for us and for the com­mu­nity be­cause we’re able to share more things and con­nect peo­ple to more ex­pe­ri­ences. I think it’s in­cred­i­bly cor­re­lated.”

Britt Cor­nett, head of ex­hi­bi­tions for the Chi­huly Stu­dio, said Chi­huly has been thrilled by the public’s re­sponse to his work at Crys­tal Bridges. The Chi­huly team has re­mained in reg­u­lar con­tact with Crys­tal Bridges through­out the ex­hi­bi­tion and Cor­nett be­lieves the mu­seum’s plan to turn to its vis­i­tors to select which piece to ac­quire is a “won­der­ful way to en­gage the com­mu­nity.”

“Dale will of­ten ask peo­ple what’s your fa­vorite in­stal­la­tion in the ex­hi­bi­tion and this is kind of a for­mal­ized way of that same ap­proach,” Cor­nett said. “We think it’s a great con­cept.”

Any­one in­ter­ested in vot­ing for one of the four ob­jects can do so be­gin­ning Satur­day and will re­main open un­til Aug. 23. The public can vote ei­ther at the mu­seum or on Face­book.

Bigelow said Crys­tal Bridges al­ready has worked out the ac­qui­si­tion price for each of the four ob­jects that have been se­lected by the cu­ra­to­rial team. The Chi­huly piece that re­ceives the most votes will be pur­chased and added to the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

“We’re go­ing to feel great about any of the ob­jects we col­lect,” Bigelow said. “We can’t col­lect all four, but we wanted to bring in the public and we want to hear the public even more specif­i­cally. So invit­ing them to be part of the se­lec­tion process is an ex­cit­ing thing for us.”

“I think it will be a great ad­di­tion to our col­lec­tion — what­ever it is.”

There’s no doubt which piece Brence and Kin­niell will be root­ing for the next two weeks.

Brence said art and Crys­tal Bridges have played a large role in their re­la­tion­ship and both had been par­tic­u­larly amazed by Sole d’Oro on an ear­lier trip to the Chi­huly ex­hi­bi­tion. So the piece was “the per­fect place” for their en­gage­ment.

“To know it will be a part of my life for­ever, I can’t even de­scribe it,” Brence said.

The dual ex­hi­bi­tion at Crys­tal Bridges has fea­tured 300 ob­jects span­ning Chi­huly’s 50year ca­reer and was part of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the sculp­tor and his team in Seattle.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/SPENCER TIREY

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/SPENCER TIREY

The Fiori Boat art­work by Dave Chi­huly is dis­played at the out­doors ex­hibit at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in Ben­tonville.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/JA­SON IVESTER

Rick Hol­land in­stalls Azure Ici­cle Chan­deleir, an art­work by Dave Chi­huly in May at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in Ben­tonville. The ex­hibit is open to the public.

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