Home‎ > ‎

Panel from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: "Integration of Art, Nature, and Architecture"

Team members of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art  in Bentonville, Arkansas will discuss the experience of enhancing and creating the 120-acre wooded grounds of the Museum through the use of native cultivars, the development of trails, the state-of-the-art plant guides and web-based app for the enjoyment of  hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.  Open since 11.11.11, Crystal Bridges has become a national cultural destination known for the successful integration of art, nature and architecture that has been visited by people from all over the world.  Panelists:  Scott Eccleston, Director of Facilities, Clay Bakker, Trails and Grounds Manager and Cody George, Horticulturalist,  Facilitated by Sandy Edwards, Deputy Director.

Sandy Edwards

Since Sandra (Sandy) Keiser Edwards arrived in Northwest Arkansas in 1998, she has been passionately and tirelessly committed to improving the quality of life in the region, placing emphasis on education and the arts.

Sandy is in her seventh year as Deputy Director for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Prior to this appointment, Sandy served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Development at the University of Arkansas for nine years. She and her late husband, Clay, served as the management team for University Development directing the one billion dollar + Campaign for the Twenty-First Century.  In 2007, Sandy was made an honorary alumna of the university by the Arkansas Alumni Association.

Sandy’s previous work has emphasized art and education as well. She served as Director of Development for Outreach and Cooperative Extension at the Pennsylvania State University, a post she held from 1992 to 1998. She created the first comprehensive advancement program in the field of continuing and distance education at a public university. She was part of the management team that created Penn State’s World Campus, a virtual university for students at a distance from the physical location. Prior to her involvement in the field of development, she was a major concert promoter, a performing arts presenter, and an arts administrator, exemplifying her ongoing commitment to the arts and arts funding.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C., and a master’s degree from Western Illinois University, where she has been honored as a Distinguished Alumna and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Scott Eccleston

Since 2008, Scott Eccleston has played a key role in the master planning, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of the Museum’s 120-acre Ozark woodland site. He was instrumental in the creation of the more-than 3.5 miles of trails that provide guests with access to the Museum’s beautiful landscape. Designed to spark the imagination, the trails help guests form connections to the land and its history, as well as enjoy outdoor artworks.

As Director of Operations, Scott oversees the operations and maintenance of both the 201,000-square-foot Museum and the extensive Trails and Grounds system, which comprise 120 acres. He has overseen the reconstruction on the Museum grounds and landscaping of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House, which has been relocated from its original site in New Jersey to Crystal Bridges.

Born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Eccleston began a career in landscape at age 14. By age 17, he became the youngest manager of grounds responsible for maintaining the Phillips Petroleum campus located in Bartlesville.  By 1993, he had received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Oklahoma State University and completed an internship with the National Park Service at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  

After moving to Northwest Arkansas, Eccleston owned and operated a landscape design company from 1994 to 2008.  In May of 2008, he became a consultant for Crystal Bridges, then under construction.  In January 2009, he was hired as full-time Manager of Parks and Grounds for the Museum.  Since then he has served as Director of Trails and Grounds and as Director of Facilities and Grounds.  He was promoted to his current position in 2015.

Clay Bakker

After working as a contractor on the Crystal Bridges construction site for two years, Clay Bakker joined Crystal Bridges as Trails and Grounds Manager in January of 2011.  He is actively engaged with all aspects of the guest’s outdoor experience, including working closely with the Museum’s education department to develop programs that enhance community engagement with the Museum Grounds.  In 2012 Bakker developed a new volunteer program for Trails and Grounds called the Avant Gardeners, along with an educational curriculum for the program focusing on native plants and the Museum ecosystem.

Bakker graduated from Texas Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in 1991 and worked project management in the film production business as an Assistant Director and Producer for 14 years before returning to his boyhood home of NW Arkansas. Here he turned his passion for landscape into a business as the owner of S&S Creative Landscapes, a full-service landscape, irrigation installation and residential/commercial maintenance company employing more than 30 team members.

Bakker currently lives in Rogers, Arkansas with his wife and two children.  He is active in his community through the Benton County Master Gardeners, United Way Day of Hope, Rogers Baseball and the Community Food Pantry of First Christian Church of Rogers.

Cody George

Cody George joined the Crystal Bridges Trails and Grounds team as Horticulturist in the winter of 2011.  Since that time, native plants and their relationship with our local ecosystem have truly become his passion.  After completing the initial landscape installation of 320 taxa of plants, George has introduced more than 60 taxa of native plants to the Museum’s living collection, with a focus on the genus’ Trillium (12 species) and Magnolia (6 species).  He has discovered and resurrected several of Dr. Neil Compton’s original test-beds for native plants and installed the certified Monarch Waystation featuring 250 individual plants of Asclepias (milkweed).  In 2012, George’s love for native plants and public education led to the development of the monthly series Discover the Grounds. 

George grew up on 40 acres in Northeast Arkansas country-side, where gaining a respect and kinship for nature and plants came easily.  Spending most of his childhood summers helping his grandparents on their five-acre organic farm in Indiana, George developed a strong interest in horticulture.  He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 2006.

George worked in the nursery industry for nearly seven years, moving from nurseryman to grower to manager, before his interest in native plants and public gardens led to his becoming head gardener for Compton Gardens, where he served for more than two years before joining Crystal Bridges. 

George lives and gardens in Bella Vista, Arkansas, with his wife and son.