​A treasure hunt for undiscovered American artists

Two men set out on a unusual art hunt to find undiscovered artists across the country, to showcase in a one-of-a-kind, contemporary art show in America's heartland

Regier is an installation artist, whose traveling "toy store" pops up unannounced, in locations as far apart as Maine and Florida. Viewers are left to decide for themselves why and how it got there.

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"NuPenny's Last Stand" by Randy Regier. Randy Regier/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

"It can be very sort of haunted and despairing in one place, and very sort of monumental and sculpturesque in another," he said. "It relies heavily on context."

Werner asked, "What drives you to take this stand and want to put it in different places around the country, and then just watch people react to it?"

"Well, the funny thing is, I don't actually watch people. I just drive away! He laughed. "What drives me to do it is the idea that that it's worthwhile to create an experience that people can have, or will have, or stumble upon, that is unexplained, maybe inexplicable."

So inexplicable, that it prompted a letter from an 11-year-old girl in Riverside, Ill.:

"Your little stand appeared out of nowhere, right next to my friend's house, and we freaked out! I know I am annoying and weird, and it is okay if you say "no." But can you send me a key so I can get in? I dropped something in there near the bottom of the door, and because I won't take anything. I'm young and you can trust me."

"If this is what I get out of my work," said Regier, "what more do you want?"

Regier's installation now sits in downtown Bentonville, part of a collection of 227 works from more than 100 artists.

"So do you think you've found the next Georgia O'Keeffe? The next Jackson Pollock?" asked Werner.

"All of the above, and then some," replied museum president Don Bacigalupi.

It's one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the country -- an exhibit that's already drawing crowds to see thought-provoking work.

"Artists in this country are the people you are buying bread next to you in the grocery store," said curator Chad Alligood. "They are teaching your children at pre-school. They are part of the fabric of our lives."

Artistic genius plucked from obscurity, now hoping they're destined for prominence.


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