Former Cheese Factory Becomes an Innovative New Contemporary Art Space

  • BENTONVILLE, Arkansas
  • /
  • January 13, 2020

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The Momentary, photo by Stephen Ironside
Courtesy of t he Momentary , Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Momentary, a new contemporary art space satellite to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, brings to light its past through adaptive reuse design. Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects and Lead Project Architect Calli Verkamp, alumna of the University of Arkansas, led the transformation of the 63,000-square-foot decommissioned cheese factory into a space for today’s visual, performing, and culinary artists.

Opening February 22, 2020, the Momentary represents the next phase in the long life of the building and site. The history of the site began as hunting grounds for the Osage Nation, before the land became an orchard in the 1800s with a railway spur running through the north side of the property. Eagle Flour Mill occupied the site in 1913 until 1947 when Kraft foods opened a 20,000-square-foot cheese processing factory in a brick masonry building, building upon it several times over the years as the plant’s process changed until it closed in 2013.

The Tower at the Momentary, photo by Stephen Ironside
Courtesy of t he Momentary , Bentonville, Arkansas.

The architectural process for the Momentary took on a similar model, only adding elements to the building that would support the new purpose of the space. The new additions use contemporary materials and construction methods to differentiate themselves from the existing building.

“Flexibility and adaptability for artists was a high priority for us with the design of the Momentary,” said Lieven Bertels, director of the Momentary. “Wheeler Kearns Architects has done a great job ensuring we will be able to take full advantage of the size of the space, allowing us to show large-scale works and performances in a different light, while preserving an important building in the Bentonville landscape.”

“Adaptive reuse is a sustainable method to repurpose standing structures, rather than building completely from scratch,” said Verkamp. “In addition to being a sustainable building method, adaptive reuse serves as a living history much like contemporary art itself,” added Bertels. “The Momentary will be an intersection of art and everyday life; perhaps some of the original elements and industrial fixtures will inspire artists and the communities to think about their own evolution and this moment in time.”



Visual Art Space

The Galleries are located within the oldest part of the original building, spanning over 24,000 square feet. Exhibitions like State of the Art 2020, the Momentary’s inaugural exhibition, will be featured throughout the space. 

Artist-in-Residence Studios

On the north end of the building are three dedicated artist-in-residence studios designed to accommodate 2D, 3D, and digital artists. The artist-in-residence program at the Momentary invited visual artists from around the world to take up residence and work on projects in the middle of the Heartland. The program also includes performing and culinary artists who may occupy spaces outside of the studios.

Performing Art Space

The RØDE House is a multidisciplinary performance space within the old Milk Intake Room, named after founding funder RØDE Microphones. The space can seat upwards of 350 people and features an adjustable floor system fabricated by Serapid. The adjustable floor allows the room to be reconfigured quickly and easily from one stage configuration to the other, giving artists and performers the freedom to manipulate the space for their specific needs. The space also features a dedicated bar inside called the RØDE Bar, projection screens for presentations, and can either be fully closed or partially open-air for performances and events. 

The Fermentation Hall is a black box theater located within the old Fermentation Room of the factory that features high ceilings, a variable acoustic system, a retractable seating bank, and can seat upwards of 100 people. The layout of the seating and design of catwalks and technical theatre systems was developed with Chicago theatre designers Schuler Shook. The design of the space takes advantage of the natural acoustic isolation with the precast concrete of the existing space, and the acoustic system was developed with Schuler Shook and Threshold Acoustics.

Culinary and Social Space
The Momentary’s most representative and largest space is the Tower. The 70-foot-tall space contains multiple interior intermediate mezzanines that will be used for visual, performance, and social events. Mezzanine levels are made accessible to the public through connecting stairs and a new elevator. The Tower’s exterior is dressed with glass panels that feature a design pattern by artist Addie Roanhorse, who drew inspiration from traditional Osage attire, paying homage to the land around the Momentary. The pattern is also featured in the building’s entryway and Container, a glass-enclosed space located off the loading dock that will be used for social gatherings. 

At the top of the Tower is the Tower Bar, a social space offering coffee service to higher-level Momentary members during the day, and wine, beer, craft cocktails, and bar snacks to the public in the evening. The design of the space is loosely inspired by 1960s airport lounges, a concept that mirrors Bentonville’s focus on aviation as seen at Thaden Field. The bar offers a stunning panoramic view of the natural beauty of Bentonville and a floor skylight so visitors don’t have to miss out on the action below.

Other culinary offerings at the Momentary include the Break Room, a foodservice concept that will use glass jars as the vessels for dishes, and Onyx Coffee Lab. The design of the Break Room features a combination of both hard and soft seating within the main gallery space, allowing visitors to enjoy food and drink simultaneously with art.

Outdoor Space

Outdoor space at the Momentary will include sculptures, a large greenspace called the Momentary Green, and courtyards like the Arvest Bank Courtyard, allowing people to relax, work, or meet with others outdoors and enjoy nature. The Arvest Bank Courtyard is sponsored by Arvest Bank.

Designed by Tulsa-based firm Howell Vancuren Landscape Architects, the landscape for the Momentary takes advantage of the natural topography of the site. A canopy spanning 13,000 square feet at 50 feet tall, originally created by Japanese company Taiyo for The Domain in Sydney, Australia, is located on the east side of the Green. The canopy will be a central focal point for outdoor single and multi-day music festivals, such as FreshGrass | Bentonville, and a place of shade for the public.

Two notable community features run alongside—and have been integrated into—the exterior design of the Momentary: the Razorback Regional Greenway and Town Branch Creek. The Momentary’s landscape has been established to help purify and clean rainwater before it moves into the creek through a bioswale system that runs along the edge of the pavement. That water eventually trickles down to the ponds at Crystal Bridges.

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