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An epic search for America's undiscovered artists

When museum curators Don Baciagalup and Chad Alligood set out to find art to feature in their new show "State of the Art," they wanted to focus their search outside of the box
The search for America's next great artist 02:51

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Museum curators Don Bacigalupi and Chad Alligood were on a mission: Find America's hidden artists.

The one-of-a-kind exhibit includes 227 original works of art

The search took the team to 174 cities in 44 states, and to unique locations, from goat farms in Florida to an old school building in Kansas.

"We're seeing people working in places that curators never visit, that don't show up on the GPS, much less the curator's radar," said Alligood. "That really is one of the things that will make this exhibition what it is."

The pair have visited nearly 1,000 artists. Many use new materials, and even new techniques: Drawing animals with smoke, weaving creations with string, and painting with plastic.

"You would never guess from across the room that what you're looking at is plastic recyclables grilled in the back alley of a Boston neighborhood," said Alligood.

The plastic piece is just one of 227 original works of art created for "State of the Art," a one-of-a-kind exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum was founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

Many of the artists in the exhibit use new materials, and even new techniques like painting with plastic.

"The idea: wherever you come from, wherever you live, there might be a great genius artist working right next door," said Bacigalupi, the museum's president. "And if you haven't paid attention to that, it's worth doing."

CBS News visited the team in May, when they stopped by to see Randy Regier in Wichita, Kansas.

He was number 960 on their nine-month odyssey.

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

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

The search took the team to 174 cities in 44 states, and to unique locations.

His installation is now part of the exhibit. It sits in downtown Bentonville, off the town square. Just one of many thought-provoking works, unusual sculptures, historical figurines and displays designed to be interactive.

So have Bacigalupi and Alligood found the next Georgia O'Keefe? The next Jackson Pollock?

"All of the above," said Bacigalupi. "And then some."

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

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