If you’re restless to see art in person but just as anxious about going indoors, a temporary outdoor installation might be a good compromise.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., about 240 miles southeast of Wichita, had no idea it had created an ideal pandemic activity when it debuted a nighttime multisensory outdoor experience last winter.
Visitors loved North Forest Lights during a three-and-a-half-month run and judging by reactions on the museum’s social media feeds, they’re happy it has returned for an extended 7-month season.
North Forest Lights launched in early September and will run through April 4, giving more people a chance to visit while capacity restrictions are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. It also opens up more seasons to experience the hour-long walk that follows a one-mile accessible walking path.
In its debut last year, the exhibit opened in late October and closed in mid-February, attracting about 108,000 visitors. Officials have adjusted some parts of the walk to prevent crowding and are implemented timed tickets to reduce and control capacity on the trail loop to give small familial groups a safe, personal experience.
The museum’s setting amid a 120-acre old-growth Ozark forest inspired the digital art exhibit designed for Crystal Bridges through a collaboration with Montreal-based multimedia and entertainment studio Moment Factory. It includes five family-friendly installations meant to reconnect people to the natural surroundings and art by creating emotion with original music, light effects and multimedia elements.
Memory of Water is a simulated stream projected in and around a dry creek bed. At Forest Frequencies, light and music connect you with the wavelengths of the Arkansas woods. The Hearth is a bonfire-like sculpture designed to immerse you in the warm glow and beating heart of nature. Young saplings communicate through shimmering crystal lights at Crystal Grove. Stand in front of the Whispering Tree and speak into a microphone that turns your voice into a color to light up the tree.
You’re also able to see Crystal Bridges’ permanent outdoor sculptures in the North Forest area illuminated after dark, including Sole d’Oro by Dale Chihuly.
Tickets range from $10-$22 for non-members, kids younger than 6 are free. When attendance allows for walk-up sales, those tickets will be an additional $5. All visitors older than 10 are required to wear a face covering inside and outside Crystal Bridges, except while eating or drinking. North Forest Lights is open after sunset Friday through Sunday, though the museum said additional days might be offered later in the season.
If you want to see the indoor collection at Crystal Bridges while visiting, arrive earlier in the day. On the days North Forest Lights is open, the museum is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It’s always free to enter and explore the permanent collection, though some temporary exhibits might have a ticket.
We found several other temporary outdoor art installations and events in the region that can be experienced as day trips from the Wichita area.
Narcissus Garden in Bentonville, Ark.
Nearly 900 mirrored spheres are in the Yayoi Kusama installation Narcissus Garden to create an immersive, reflective experience. It was installed in August outside The Momentary, a Crystal Bridges satellite space that opened earlier this year in Bentonville, and will be on view for at least a year.
Narcissus Garden has appeared in many forms around the world since Kusama first created it in 1966. Each iteration has its own character and this is the first time the work has been installed outdoors in an industrial setting. The Momentary is a repurposed cheese factory and its placement in a courtyard near a Quonset Hut with employee parking signs allows it to reflect people, architecture and the open sky.
You can see Narcissus Garden anytime but if you want to pair your visit with seeing the indoor galleries, including the “Nick Cave: Until” exhibition, The Momentary is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. General admission is free but they do have capacity limits; check their website for details and for a full list of exhibitions and events.
Light installation in Oklahoma City
This temporary art exhibit — “Jen Lewin: Aqueous” — is on the grounds of the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Part of the 4.6-acre arts campus is the three-block Campbell Art Park, which has an interactive light installation through Oct. 19. The surface of “Aqueous” by New York City artist Jen Lewis reflects the sky, audience and surroundings during the day. At night it lights up as visitors walk along the pathway.
Inside the main Oklahoma Contemporary building is “Bright Golden Haze,” featuring large-scale works highlighting the use of light. In collaboration with that inaugural exhibition, 12 arts and cultural organizations produced related exhibitions and programs as part of “Bright Golden Haze: Reflections.” Many are outdoors, such as “The Unexpected Us” by Denise Duong and Gabriel Friedman at Scissortail Park, a massive woven willow stick hut in the form of a bird with a golden pulsating light at its center. Visit oklahomacontemporary.org for a full list of locations and information.
“Return of the Dinosaurs” near Salina
Originally, this collection of animatronic dinosaurs was scheduled to be on display in the Earl Bane Gallery at Rolling Hills Zoo, about six miles west of Salina. Instead they installed “Return of the Dinosaurs” outside where the replicas that move and vocalize are on display through Oct. 12.
All but one of the six installations are north of Kids Country inside the Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoo (the Pteranodon flies overhead in the lobby of the Wildlife Museum). General admission tickets are $7 to $13.95 per person based on age. The zoo, with 120 animals on 65 acres, is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buy tickets online for no-contact entry.
Community art project in Lawrence
See a variety of mediums of art with different levels of permanence at a masked, physically distant, small groups only art walk from 5 to 10 p.m. Oct. 3 in the East Lawrence neighborhood adjacent to downtown.
The event combines a revised version of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association’s annual block party with an art crawl to promote the completion of the Rebuilding East Ninth Project. Among the art you can experience: the painted mural “Natives Now” by Mona Cliff, a community produced yarn mural and a live performance by international musician and composer Nick Carswell of his multimedia project to document a small portion of the sounds, stories and histories of the neighborhood.
Volunteers will hand out maps of the more than 20 sites so you can tour at your own pace from your car or on foot, distanced from others. There’s also a free community meal, a raffle, music sites and outdoor art making. Find more details on the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page.
SculptureTour in Salina
The annual SculptureTour Salina includes 19 sculptures this year by artists from Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Minnesota and Arizona. This ongoing program features juried pieces that are loaned to the city from May to December each year. The public is invited to vote for the people’s choice, which is then purchased by the city of Salina to become part of the public art collection. There’s also a best of show chosen by jurors; this year’s winner is a life-size giraffe titled Out of Africa by Minnesota artist Dale Lewis.
Pick up a map at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce or many other downtown businesses and guide your own tour. Find more information at