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Galas in the Galleries of the South

The American South has, perhaps, more than its fair share of museums. Colonial museums, antebellum house museums, Civil War museums, presidential home museums, civil rights museums, cutting-edge American art museums — every Southern town has something to offer visitors.

For unforgettable events, consider holding functions in these fascinating Southern museums.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Bentonville, Arkansas

Hiding in a once nondescript corner of northwest Arkansas, Bentonville, the original and present-day home of megacorp Wal-Mart, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is an oasis of world-class art and architecture.

Designed by award-winning architect Moshe Safdie, the museum gives breathtaking views of the surrounding Ozarks landscape while simultaneously creating a striking yet harmonious imposition on the landscape that implores visitors to stop and appreciate the art around and within. The passageways crossing over the museum’s two ponds are reminiscent of Santiago Calatrava, melding an almost alien-looking amount of structural detail with natural themes.

Like many modern museums, Crystal Bridges was designed with events in mind. The piece de resistance for groups is the great hall with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, giving the impression that the room is floating in the upper pond. Depending on the setting, the room can accommodate between 150 and 450 people, and the adjoining lobby can also be rented with it outside of business hours.

On weekdays during business hours, small groups can take advantage of the glass-walled seminar room in the library and the three landing suites, two of which can be joined for parties of up to 40. Groups can also take a meal or a brainstorming session outside into one of the museum’s outdoor rental spaces, which include the south lawn, the twin bridges patio and two shelters on the trail system in the Ozark forestlands that are attached to the museum. Walker Landing, which can hold up to 200 guests and overlooks the lower pond, and the multitiered East Terrace are both available for evening rentals only.

Museum staff can do a private opening of one gallery for rental groups using the Great Hall after hours. Typically, the temporary exhibitions gallery, which is closest to the hall, is used, but if there is nothing on view, the colonial or contemporary galleries are available. From February 27 to May 30 of this year, that gallery will feature an exhibit on photography and the American road trip.

Booth Western Art Museum

Cartersville, Georgia

Though it is home to the largest collection of Old West art in the country, the Booth Western Art Museum itself is a decidedly 21st-century venue for an event. Constructed in 2003 and expanded in 2009, the museum is designed to evoke a modern pueblo.

Most of the Booth’s spaces can be rented for meetings during the day, but the museum can be held open during most evening rentals, said Tom Shinall, the museum’s director of marketing. On the main floor, the nearly 5,000-square-foot subdividable ballroom can be used alone during business hours or combined with the adjacent sculpture court and atrium after hours. Also off the great hall, the angled Bergman Theatre, which seats 140, can be used during business hours when not scheduled for a museum event. “During events, we’ve shown old Western films and special screenings,” said Shinall.

Across the hall from Sagebrush Ranch gallery on the lower floor, an interactive exhibit designed to look like a working ranch, the Borderlands meeting room is available during business hours, and small groups can also avail themselves of a private dining space in the museum’s cafe to complement their meeting. The entire cafe is not available while the museum is open.

In addition to being the second-largest museum in Georgia, at 120,000 square feet, the Booth is a Smithsonian affiliate due to its unique collection of historic and contemporary Western American, Civil War and presidential art, artifacts and reference materials.