A Group of Contemporary Art Curators Set Their Sights on Arkansas as the Home of What They Hope Will Be the Next Coachella

Format is set to take place this September and will include artworks and performances by Doug Aitken and Herbie Hancock.

Doug Aitken, New Horizon (2019). ©Doug Aitken. Image courtesy the artist and The Trustees of Resrvations (MA). Photo by Jamie Barron.
Doug Aitken, New Horizon (2019). © Doug Aitken. Image courtesy the artist and The Trustees of Resrvations (MA). Photo by Jamie Barron.

Can a group of contemporary art curators and tastemakers turn the Arkansas town of Bentonville into an art-world hotspot?

That’s the bid behind an ambitious art and music festival set to take place from September 23 to 25.

For Music, Art, and Technology (Format), as the event is called, has backing from heavyweight events planner C3 Presents, which is behind Lollapalooza and Bonaroo and organized Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremonies.

FORMAT festival site, Sugar Creek Airstrip, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo by Zak Heald.

FORMAT festival site, Sugar Creek Airstrip, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo by Zak Heald.

C3 Presents is partnering with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded in 2007 by Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton, and the Momentary, Crystal Bridges’ satellite contemporary art space, for the event.

Format will unfold over four days and three nights and include performances, installations, and other experiences with a potential attendance of 15,000 attendees.

Triadic founders (l to r): Elizabeth Edelman; Roya Sachs; and Mafalda Millies. Image courtesy Triadic and Format.

Triadic founders (l to r): Elizabeth Edelman; Roya Sachs; and Mafalda Millies. Image courtesy Triadic and Format.

The visual arts section, curated by Triadic, the company formed by Elizabeth Edelman, Mafalda Millies, and Roya Sachs, former curator of the Lever House Art Collection in New York, will include works by Nick Cave, Jacolby Satterwhite, Doug Aitken, and Assume Video Astro Focus, among others.

Festival headliners also include musicians Herbie Hancock, Phoenix, the Flaming Lips, and Fatboy Slim.

The idea for the festival was in the works for years, Sachs told Artnet News. “But it was only recently that we found the ideal home for the festival.”

Sachs says she, Edelman, and Millies spent two years getting to know Bentonville and refining their vision for the festival.

“Now, in 2022, we are finally able to produce the show,” she said.

Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz.

Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz.

“Bentonville is entirely unique in the way culture and community are intertwined,” Sachs said. “I’m always amazed by what I discover when I’m there, from performances in an abandoned cheese factory turned museum [the Momentary], to James Turrell Skyscapes.”

Format will kick off with a concert by the War on Drugs at the Momentary, from which Doug Aitken will launch a mirrored hot-air balloon, which will then float five miles to the festival site at Sugar Creek Airstrip, set on 250 acres of forest land.

Meanwhile, in another event, a group of Nick Cave’s signature sound suits will be worn by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff drum line.

The festival will have traditional main and side stages for headline acts, as well as alternative settings where musicians will perform: forest enclaves, open-air pavilions, a converted disco barn, and a multi-room speakeasy.

The Momentary, Bentonville, Arksansa. Image courtesy The Momentary.

The Momentary, Bentonville, Arksansa. Image courtesy The Momentary.

“We’ve tried to capture all the things that make Northwest Arkansas one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic ecosystems in the country,” Olivia Walton, Crystal Bridges and Momentary board chair, said in a statement.

“Our hope is that people not just come to the festival site for the weekend, but lean into everything that the magical region of OZ, as Northwest Arkansas is known, has to offer,” Sachs said.

Ticket packages start at $275.


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