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It has been a little over two years in the making, but the Momentary has arrived! Olivia Walton, founding chairperson, likened the new contemporary art space to the ‘grittier, messier, rebellious younger sister’ of Crystal Bridges Museum⁠—and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome her to the Northwest Arkansas family.
Let’s explore what executive director Lieven Bertels lovingly refers to as, “the living room for contemporary performing arts, visual arts and culinary discoveries,” feels like? In other words, what’s the vibe?

Radical Empathy & Inclusiveness

Even before you enter the space, Tavares Strachan’s 78 feet wide and 25 feet high neon sculpture on the east-facing wall of the Momentary is there to greet and invite you in, “You Belong Here.”  Above all else, the Momentary feels much less like a museum and much more like a gathering place. A place where people across the community, and from across the country, can engage in cultural experiences together and be met with a sense of belonging.

Pia Agrawal, curator of performing arts, noted that this togetherness vibe is just the beginning. Ultimately, the feeling they are looking to cultivate and inspire is one of ‘radical empathy,’ a place where we can feel ourselves striving to better understand and share the feelings of others.

Feelings of Mass Intimacy

We know these two words seem totally opposed to one another, but stick with us a minute here. The concept of “mass intimacy” coined by Goodby & Silverstein, is a moment where one feels touched on a deeply personal level by an experience, which is amplified by the realization that the experience is also being shared by numerous others. Whereas radical empathy is about seeking to internalize the feelings others, this one is about the constellation of unique emotions we happen to encounter at the same moment.

Take for example the Momentary’s inaugural festival of performance, TIME BEING, with its experiences like Home Balance, which morphs a children’s bouncy house into a contemporary art project about balance. Questions about what constitutes a home evokes emotions that are at once deeply personal and shared. The performance draws on childhood games to explore how family interactions challenge the desire to maintain orderly control of the structures in which we dwell. From what we gathered, mass intimacy will be a recurring theme in the Momentary’s programming.

Feelings of Mass Intimacy

We know these two words seem totally opposed to one another, but stick with us a minute here. The concept of “mass intimacy” coined by Goodby & Silverstein, is a moment where one feels touched on a deeply personal level by an experience, which is amplified by the realization that the experience is also being shared by numerous others. Whereas radical empathy is about seeking to internalize the feelings others, this one is about the constellation of unique emotions we happen to encounter at the same moment.

Take for example the Momentary’s inaugural festival of performance, TIME BEING, with its experiences like Home Balance, which morphs a children’s bouncy house into a contemporary art project about balance. Questions about what constitutes a home evokes emotions that are at once deeply personal and shared. The performance draws on childhood games to explore how family interactions challenge the desire to maintain orderly control of the structures in which we dwell. From what we gathered, mass intimacy will be a recurring theme in the Momentary’s programming.

Full of Wonder

To follow up on the example from mass intimacy and to return to the idea of Olivia’s “rebellious little sister” analogy, the Momentary has this subtle way of helping you tap into that child-like sense of wonder and possibility—an opportunity to rediscover what it feels like to be immersed in a world where everything is new.

And it doesn’t get newer than the works on display from State of the Art 2020, which represents a cross-section of present-day artists whose works explore themes of world-building, sense of place, mapping and temporality. There are pieces like the “Three-Dimensional Sketchbook” by Jill Downen and “In An Effort To Be Held” by Kellie Romany, which counter the museum norm of “look, but don’t touch” with “come closer and touch.”

Synchronicity

Synchronicity, also known as meaningful coincidences, is that random signal from the universe letting you know you are headed in the right direction and to stay the course. As an example, it turns out that the same day that the graphic designer submitted the design for the Momentary logo inspired by the arrows on the industrial pipes that line the former cheese factory, Oklahoma artist Addie Roanhorse submitted an arrow design that became the first commissioned artwork for the building inspired by traditional Osage attire and the history of the land the Momentary sits on. Pretty cool, right?

Ultimately, synchronicity is something that can be manifested by listening intently and deeply. We were surprised by how many performances and visual artworks took listening to the Northwest Arkansas community as their starting point, see First Things First by For You as an example.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity, also known as meaningful coincidences, is that random signal from the universe letting you know you are headed in the right direction and to stay the course. As an example, it turns out that the same day that the graphic designer submitted the design for the Momentary logo inspired by the arrows on the industrial pipes that line the former cheese factory, Oklahoma artist Addie Roanhorse submitted an arrow design that became the first commissioned artwork for the building inspired by traditional Osage attire and the history of the land the Momentary sits on. Pretty cool, right?

Ultimately, synchronicity is something that can be manifested by listening intently and deeply. We were surprised by how many performances and visual artworks took listening to the Northwest Arkansas community as their starting point, see First Things First by For You as an example.

Reverence > Respect

Respect may be externally motivated by society or others, like that quip “respect your elders.” From this angle, reverence can be viewed as a much more evolved and deeper form of respect. You’ll see it in the artworks, in the adaptive reuse architecture, hear it uttered from the staff and written on the website, “The Momentary acknowledges and pays respect to the Osage, Caddo and Quapaw people and elders past, present and future, offering deep gratitude to the ancestral land and water that supports it.”

At the end of the day, the core emotion we felt is one of happiness. Happy the Momentary is in this region, happy such exceptional people work there, happy we get to visit and experience it and happy we can encourage you to go!

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