When I visited China last year, people asked me where I was from.

"The United States. Arkansas".

"Oh... Bill Clinton", they would smile, knowingly. I would smile back. "Yes, yes". Like we were best buds.

The Chinese didn't know who Oprah was. But they knew Bill Clinton.

Well Bill, look out. You have something that might just be rivaling your Arkansas star power. And I am not talking about Hillary.

It's the Crystal Bridges Museum. Alice Walton's brainchild and gift to our world.

The museum has stirred controversy since its opening.

In our neck of the woods, we consider it a gem. It sits in the midst of gorgeous grounds and trails, all open to the public. Admission is free, thanks to Ms. Walton. The building and it environment are purposefully interwoven by its architect into a peaceful, serene backdrop for whatever experience you choose to have with the art, found both inside and outside the museum.

I have been to a fair number of museums in my lifetime. Famous ones in Paris, Vienna, London, New York, Chicago. I am far from an art critic. Like most folks, I just know what I like and what I don't. What I am immediately attracted to. What draws a blank stare.

I wonder what the work meant to the artist. Especially modern art. Or if it's older, wish I knew the story behind all the symbolism. Try to find out. It's always more interesting if you know that.

Read this next: What Happens When You Really Care? Magic. That’s What.

I participated in a recent presentation for bloggers at Crystal Bridges' new "State of the Art" exhibit. It's quite a sensation in the art world. The museum gathered current unknown artists' works from around the United States. The entire exhibit, and it is huge, is about what's going on now. New cutting edge techniques. Textures never-before seen. Ideas freshly born from the spirits of their creators, some of the pieces just months old.

From the moment you enter, you realize this exhibit is unique. A living, breathing Mom is part of the opening work by Andy Ducett.  She hands out advice. Maybe a scolding that you needed a coat today. Tissues, hand cleaner, or whatever she has brought with her to the crowd.

The exhibit was not planned to be arranged by themes but they emerged. Those themes are highlighted on simple wall plaques in the different halls.

The variety of artistic technique is intriguing. This textural piece by Gina Phillips was made with what our guide called a "long-arm sewing machine". The artist had been told by her grandmother that if she didn't quit playing in the dirt, she was going to have corn growing out of her.

Obviously that omen stuck with her.

The show is enthralling. Color. Movement. Sound. Light. Such a variety of mediums that you can never get bored. If one piece isn't your cup of tea, just walk 5 seconds. The next will be quite different.

I found the experience refreshing. Moving. Thought-provoking. Fun.

Now, why, might you ask, is a clinical psychologist writing a post about an art museum?

Because art draws you out of yourself. It guides you to your emotions. It serves as a way for anyone to express their internal experience. Memories, painful or not. Beliefs. Who you are or were. What you want to share with others.

I have often thought that my ideal office would have an art room in the back. Filled with supplies that my patients could use. To help them work through whatever is going on. Perhaps it is my being a musician. But creatively expressing who you are - however you so choose to do that - is important.

Giving yourself a voice. A presence.

And it can be inspiring to others. Especially in such an exhibit as this.

If you are worried about pragmatics, it's easier to get to Northwest Arkansas than you think. There is a great new airport 30 minutes from the museum itself. Direct flights to and from all over the country.

It's thrilling to see, hear, and feel what 102 new artists in America have been creating in their homes and studios. Just waiting to be discovered.

It's right here in Arkansas.

Home of Bill. Alice. And art.

Dr. Rutherford has not received any monetary compensation for this post. 

 

Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began blogging in 2012 after her only son left for college, coining the term "NestAche" for her empty nest experience. Not only here on Boomeon, she has been featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, BlogHer, Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet and ArkansasWomenBloggers. Her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on choosing a therapist or evaluating your current therapy, is available for free on her website. You can find her at DrMargaretRutherford.com or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.

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