Ogle Outdoors

Ogle Outdoors

Momentary art expands beyond its walls


“I have been thinking, alongside the rest of the country, I guess, about what constitutes a hero, what icons, symbols, moments and people are worthy of celebration,” artist Christopher Meyers says of his flag “Icarus Falling” for The Momentary Flag Project. “So often public monuments are meant to rewrite history, to render the dynamic, ever-changing worlds around us into static, concrete markers of what we wish had been the truth.
(Courtesy Image/Christopher Meyers)

The inside of the Momentary is in a state of transition as the contemporary arts space in Bentonville prepares for its next temporary exhibition, “Nick Cave: Until,” opening next month. But Public Relations Manager Emily Neuman wants to remind the community that the Momentary has a lot more going on than just the temporary exhibitions inside its doors.

“We really wanted to make sure that anyone who visited the Momentary still had plenty to discover and enjoy,” Neuman says. And that outlook presented the perfect opportunity to expand the venue’s outdoor programming. Over the past few weeks, the Momentary has ramped up its efforts to increase awareness of its outdoor arts, culinary and active offerings during these “weird and trying times.”

“We’re still at one-third capacity, but we’ve seen a lot of people just take that extra time to explore, or stepping off the trail being curious about the new artwork,” Neuman shares, “which I think is nice because even during this time, it allows us to be what our intent was for the space.

“It’s a community gathering space. And gathering obviously looks a little different now than it did back when we opened. But I think it’s still nice to see people feeling comfortable exploring the space and engaging with ourselves and other elements of the community that are nearby.”

“Part of the experience that you don’t understand until you’re there is the experience of actually tilting your head and looking up,” Maestas says of Iván Navarro’s “This Land is Your Land.”
“There’s not a lot of artwork, and there’s not a lot of sculpture, specifically, where your gaze is drawn completely upward. It’s not until you actually stand beneath them and you raise your head up that you actually have the full experience that the artist intended.”
(Courtesy Image/Iván Navarro and Kasmin Gallery)

Kaitlin Maestas, assistant curator at the Momentary, was brought on to the arts center’s team in the fall of 2018. She reveals that the curatorial team had already begun thinking about how to activate the outdoor spaces of the Momentary, and Maestas was tasked with conceptualizing what that could look like in the venue’s first year. After the onset of the coronavirus, there was a real motivation to bring people together outside, so the outdoor programming became even more of a focal point for the curators.

“Even before the pandemic, we had already started. We have Tavares Strachan’s ‘You Belong Here’ and that was installed right before we opened in February; and we had the ‘RRRolling Stones 2.0,’ which are those 3D-printed concrete seats,” Maestas cites. “It’s a natural space for people to congregate.”

“Neon is a democratic medium, it’s recognizable and used all over the world as a material favored (commercially) to convey messages to people walking by on the street,” artist Tavares Strachan says of his site-specific “You Belong Here” sculpture that has become a quintessential part of the Momentary’s ethos and visual exterior.

“Aesthetically, the lights are also appealing; it transitions the sculpture into a 24-hour object,” he adds of the work, which simultaneously serves as question and answer to the viewer, he reveals. “If you see that sculpture and think, ‘No, I don’t belong here,’ the next logical question is ‘Why?’”

The artists, too, “belong here” as the curatorial team pursues ways to “allow artists to claim space and tell stories on our campus,” Maestas shares. A very easy and logical choice for one such engagement opportunity, she says, was the original flag pole from the Momentary’s factory days. The Momentary Flag Project seemed like an ideal platform to open up conversation around identity and symbolism as a rotating series of artists create an original flag that will hang from the venue’s historic flag pole.

Beer, Bites, and Bocce Ball
As the Momentary’s artistic offerings encompass visual, performing and culinary, so too do the outdoor engagements activate all of these realms.
In wanting to activate the Green on the Momentary’s campus, staff had to get creative in the ways they could encourage the community to gather in the space, even outdoors, in the face of the coronavirus.
Enter: two brand new, full size bocce ball courts, and expanded outdoor culinary and bar offerings.
“The hope was whatever we did under the canopy would be an activity that wouldn’t be too complicated and the public could easily pick up,” Emily Neuman, public relations manager, says. “And I think bocce ball, while it may be new to some in the area, offered that right balance to be a great outdoor, family-friendly game without being too complicated.”
Visitors can also pick up some bites and some beer (among other offerings) from the outdoor expansion of the RØDE Bar while they play a game or just enjoy the Green in a safe and socially distanced way.
Neuman also points out that along with the rotating schedule of indoor and outdoor artworks, for those who are still not quite comfortable venturing to the campus, the art space has a robust virtual programming schedule it will maintain through the end of the year.
“There’s a lot of great offerings online still, for those who want to engage with us in that way. We’re trying to make sure there’s a good balance between in-person and virtual.”
COST — $10/hour, $8 for members
INFO — themomentary.org
(Courtesy Photo/the Momentary, Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside)

“Vexillology, or the study of flags, teaches us that the essential tension with flags lies in that space between being representative of the biggest ideas and the most intimate senses of self — that flags can fly over capitol buildings and also wave in the hands of a small child,” Christopher Meyers reflects. Meyers was invited to create the first flag for the project, and his piece, “Icarus Falling,” will be on display through Oct. 20.

“And as each community embraces a flag or identity, we must acknowledge that the same flag can mean different things for different people. That being said, all of the flags that I love represent the idea that discourse, conversation, ideas and debate are central to how we think about our own identities,” Meyers says. “An identity in stasis is an identity that is no longer useful. The flags that can no longer be debated are the flags that have ceased to inspire conversation within communities.

“So ideally these flags, my flags, will encourage conversations, new communities, ways of being together.”

“There are seven Black figures on the flag, and it’s really meaningful to be amplifying those stories right now,” Maestas adds. “This moment feels very special to me, and I’m very grateful to Chris for entrusting us with his design and entrusting the Momentary with his story.”

Presenting such varying pieces outdoors offers visitors myriad ways to interact with the work — from wandering over off the trail, as Neuman noted, to making a special trip to the Momentary after hearing about a new piece. However the viewer is interacting with the piece, Maestas notes how outdoor art encourages a different type of engagement than an indoor experience. Encounters with the outdoor pieces will also be affected by time of day and weather, as well.

“There’s certain works that are really activated during the day, with the sun,” she attests. “If you think about Chris Myers’ flag, it really comes alive in the afternoon. There’s a beautiful breeze that comes through, and you see the flag fully extended, waving in the sky.

“And then Kusama’s ‘Narcissus Garden,’ which we just installed, that catches the reflection of the sky. But then at night, there’s this wonderful moment that happens where you see folks who are maybe finishing up dinner at the Eighth Street Market, and they’ll wander through the Momentary Green onto the courtyard, and then they’ll see ‘You Belong Here,’ which really anchors the whole campus, and then come to Iván Navarro’s water towers.

“They pick up the reflection of the architecture and there are some really stunning, old architectural remnants from the factory on that north side,” shares Momentary assistant curator, Kaitlin Maestas, of the placement for the new Yayoi Kusama installation “Narcissus Garden,” which comprises nearly 900 mirrored spheres.
“I really wanted to think about what it would look like for the reflection to capture architecture, people, nature, but then also the sky. It’s pretty incredible when you stand in front of them, because you get to see yourself reflected in all of these elements, which is really special.”
Yayoi Kusama, “Narcissus Garden,” Collection of OZ Art. Courtesy of Ota fine Art and Victoria Miro. Copyright Yayoi Kusama.
(Courtesy Image/the Momentary, Photo by Ironside Photography)

“So I think people are also still discovering that the Momentary has this artwork that they can encounter. I love going out there in the evening hours and seeing how people navigate the space.”

Yayoi Kusama’s “Narcissus Garden” is an exciting installation on the Momentary campus that is in partnership with OZ Art. The work comprises nearly 900 mirrored spheres, and the Momentary’s display is the first time the piece has been installed in an industrial, outdoor setting since its inception in 1966.

“Our goal is to make art a part of your daily life, so that you maybe don’t realize it, but you’re seeing an amazing artwork by a world-renowned artist and experiencing it while you have a cup of coffee or something like that,” shares Elizabeth Miller with OZ Art. Through their collection of works and their community partnerships, like this loan to the Momentary, OZ Art endeavors to connect Northwest Arkansas experiences outside of art with the arts community.

“With Crystal Bridges coming online and now the Momentary, we really are getting an amazing reputation for an arts location that’s like a hidden gem and drives tourism,” Miller continues. “And people really understand that this is something we’re doing — we’re creating an arts hub for Arkansas, but really for the world.”

The final new work on display on the Momentary campus is by an artist Maestas reveals she has been following for some time. Iván Navarro’s “This Land Is Your Land” evokes both the Woody Guthrie song of the same name and the migrant worker experience through the use of a series of water towers.

“Coming to Northwest Arkansas and driving around — because driving is such a big part of being in this region; you have to drive to get anywhere — I started to notice the water towers, these sort of markers of where you were in space and time,” Maestas recalls of moving to the area.

“Specifically Northwest Arkansas, it’s interesting because it does feel like one big region, sometimes you can lose track of where you are, especially if you’re new. So I found the water towers to be this really incredible anchor for me in navigating my way around the region, and also they were each very individual and had their own characteristics, and I found that to be really special.”

By using these communal icons, Navarro also reflects on his own experience as an immigrant and uses light to draw the viewer in to have more complicated conversations or meditations about migration and immigration, Maestas details. The artist was a natural fit for the Momentary campus as he marries the two ideas that exist between Crystal Bridges and the Momentary, she continues: thinking about American art and American experiences, but also broadening what America looks like and how we define American art.

“I think it’s helpful to understand why we have them, and why so many,” Maestas says, musing on all the outdoor activations. “And I think the answer is we are really trying to speak to the idea of the Momentary, which is always to be in the moment.

“Because we are a satellite space of Crystal Bridges and we’re a non-collecting organization, there’s inherently an element of temporality in everything we do. So nothing is permanent.”

As it is indoors with the temporary exhibitions, that concept is reflected in the term lengths for the outdoor projects as well. Each exhibition varies, and the campus will frequently change in its engagement opportunities.

“The program is ever-evolving. So, we’re starting to have a conversation with our audience where they understand they can come and have the outdoor experience and hopefully see something new somewhat often.”

The Momentary in Bentonville has added myriad arts and engagement opportunities to its outdoor spaces while inside, the exhibition galleries prepare for the next temporary show.
(Courtesy Photo/the Momentary, Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside)


The Momentary

WHEN — Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

WHERE — 507 S.E. E St. in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — 367-7500, themomentary.org

Categories: Family Friendly