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We the People | America’s Story through Art


The Preamble to the United States Constitution was written as a framework to describe the intentions of our country’s founders. Many children memorize The Preamble in middle school through a government or social studies class.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville uses these foundational words as the framework for an exciting current exhibit that opened on Independence Day this summer. The exhibition offers the opportunity to view original copies of our country’s foundational documents and features art from the museum’s permanent collection.

The collection of artifacts is a great way to discover how mediums like history and art or science and technology cross each other for a grander experience. Our family had a chance to tour the exhibit this summer and use it as a learning experience for our preschooler.

In this free exhibition, the document is displayed in conversation with works of art by influential historical and contemporary artists that provide diverse American perspectives on the nation’s founding principles.

Exploring the We the People exhibit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And this fall, while exploring fall foliage colors in Northwest Arkansas, it’s the perfect day outing before the exhibition closes January 2.

Unique Features of We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy exhibit

  • A new orientation of Crystal Bridges to focus on “people” that make America special

When Crystal Bridges re-opened after the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors experienced a new layout of the museum. The intention of the new design focuses on the people who make America. By rearranging the collection from period arrangement to the artist and the subject, visitors move through an emotional understanding of what makes America unique through stories evoked in the art around them.

The new layout even opens with We the People by Artist Nari Ward, a community installation made from shoelaces, a found object connecting all people.

  • An original copy of the Constitution of the United States of America
  • Original copies of other foundational government documents

Also displayed are original documents of the proposed Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, 13th Amendment, Emancipation Proclamation, and Federalist Papers.

  • Presidential portraits and Native American Leaders
  • Pieces by 20th century and living artists exploring constitutional themes of equality, freedom and justice.
  • Constitution Studio – kids (and adults) maker space and creative landing with nation-inspired art-making opportunities
  • Critical Conversations series – virtual community discussions inspired by the legacy of the US Constitution
  • Evening Talk series – a unique perspective from American leaders past and present; in-person gatherings
  • Guided Tours are offered daily with a focus and emphasis on artists, styles, mediums, and special exhibits.

How to make We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy a memorable experience for kids

  • Prepare them for what you are going to see. Talk to your child about an art museum. Where have they been that it is like or different from this experience?
  • Give them something to look for, like a scavenger hunt. Kids love the search and adventure concept of any outing. Use tools the museum provides or make up your own based on their learning level. Older kids may enjoy looking for art throughout the gallery related to democracy topics.
  • Stop at the welcome wall in the lobby and grab a coloring sheet and pencil. Then, plan to stop to give them space to look at the art and draw on their paper. Benches and couches are available throughout the galleries.
  • Ask them to tell you if they see something they recognize as you walk through the permanent collection and special exhibits. This could be a character from a story, a shape or color, or something that stands out and is new or different.

  • Show them the documents. If they are short, pick them up and let them see the documents. Tell them what they are viewing and share their significance.
  • Let them see the portraits of past presidents and peace leaders. Tell them who they are and why they are important.
  • Use the environment around you to help them learn on their level.  For example, colors, shapes and letters are part of the artwork adjacent to the documents.
  • Help history and historical events come to life before their eyes. Learning is fun when we make it fun. Kids will pick up the fascination for art, history, and making the world better from us!

As far as I’m concerned, viewing these documents is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Having original copies of constitutional documents in Arkansas makes it easy to interact with history and explore and reconnect with your own feelings and beliefs about what makes our country so special and unique.

Get to Bentonville before January!

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
We the People | the Radical Notion of Democracy is open through Jan. 2, 2023
600 Museum Way | Bentonville
479-418-5700 | website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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