Sunday, December 16, 2012 On the Politics of Crystal Bridges

How Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Exposes The Foolishness Of Occupy Wall Street: OP/ED | 11/14/2011 byAbigail R. Esman

Last week, Alice Walton’s shining new museum, Crystal Bridges, opened to the public in the most unlikely of places: Bentonville, Arkansas, population 36,800.  Set on 120 acres amidst 500 dogwood trees, sculpture gardens, and springs, and boasting art works culled from private and public collections around the country that celebrate the American tradition in art, Crystal Bridges is the Wal-Mart heiress’s gift to the town where Wal-Mart first began as Walton’s Five-and-Dime in the 1940s.
Yet despite this love letter, as it were, to her community and to America, there remain those so wedded to the whining of the so-called 99 percent that they remain blinded both to the philanthropy and to the significance of the project. Never mind that the museum has brought art works by American giants from Benjamin West and Georgia O’Keefe to Mark di Suvero and Joan Mitchell to a region that has, until now, had little opportunity to view the glories of America’s artistic heritage. Never mind that some of these purchases – costing tens of millions of dollars – hang, not in private homes for the selfish enjoyment of the Walton family, but on public walls for the education and enrichment of the American people. Never mind that funds used to purchase these treasures (and preserve and build nature trails and parks) for the simple purpose of giving them to Americans could instead have easily been used for, say, bracelets and private planes and mansions. Never mind that Ms. Walton consciously chose to use local labor and – for the most part — local materials, or that through an additional $20 million gift, provided by the Wal-Mart Family Foundation, entrance to the museum will be free for the foreseeable future.  Never mind that there is no income reward in this for the Walton family – only expense. Never mind that the museum will employ local workers and bring tourism (read: jobs and commerce) to the town.  All this, for the Occupy crowd, apparently means nothing. What matters to them is simply the fact that Ms Walton has the money to do any of this in the first place – and this, evidently, is an emblem of pure evil.
As reported by
Members of the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (OUR Wal-Mart), an activist group dedicated to improving working conditions for the company’s employees, will team up with branches of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Saint Louis, Miami, Oakland, and San Francisco to distribute information about the Walton family’s labor practices and policies. “If there’s ever a case of the one percent, it’s the Walton family,” OUR Wal-Mart spokesman Ben Waxman told ARTINFO.
The current and former Wal-Mart associates participating in the demonstrations take issue with the fact that Walton has spent millions of dollars on a museum while her family’s organization, Wal-Mart, recently raised health care premiums and has capped salaries for many of its employees. “I have a problem with my pay being capped, but somehow there’s money to do something of this nature,” said Mary Pat Tifft, who has worked at a Wal-Mart branch in Wisconsin for 23 years and says her pay has been capped for six. on Crystal Bridges
Alice Walton To Talk Art And Growing Up Walton: CBS
Steven Bertoni
Forbes Staff
While I can certainly empathize with Ms. Tifft (the pay for freelance writers, after all, has been unofficially but effectively capped since the ‘70s), I wonder if she would protest as much if, say, Ms. Walton had instead opted to build another several Wal-Marts instead of a museum. Somehow, I doubt it.  I remain unclear as to what effect, too, the creating of Crystal Bridges has on her personal income, since funding for the museum came out of the Walton Family Foundation, which does not pay salaries to Wal-Mart employees., and from Ms. Walton’s own personal fortune. True, as ArtInfo notes, Ms. Walton’s wealth comes largely from WalMart stock; but those monies, too, would not otherwise find their way to paying out ..... Read More OP/ED | 11/14/2011 byAbigail R. Esman

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