Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Crystal Bridges In the Rain

Yesterday in the chill grey rain of winter, we drove up to Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton's benevolent gift to the People of Arkansas, which is just over an hour from our house.

We'd been up to see the long-running exhibit State of the Art a few months ago -- it's just excellent, and we went through it again this time.

But we had somehow missed seeing the Audubon Exhibit, so we drove up to see that; and went through the museum's 19th and 20th century collection as well.

As long-term readers of this blog know, I have my issues with the Waltons (to put it mildly), but it is hard to understate how much this museum means to the people of Arkansas.

Previous to its construction, the nearest museums were in Kansas City, Tulsa, Dallas, and Houston.  All of these except Tulsa are really out of reach for any except the upper-class in Arkansas (and very few people in Arkansas rank in the upper-class).  This meant no one here saw art, except -- possibly -- in art history classes in high school or college, and then only in reproductions.

As those of you who have access to museums know, this is just not an acceptable substitute.  I'd seen Audubon prints all my life -- how could I not, growing up in New Orleans? -- but the paintings themselves, and the lithographs, seen in person, they will knock you down.

Plus, the museum has a wonderful new Hopper:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

This image does nothing to represent it.  Believe me.


I still wish the Waltons would pay a living wage.  (I hear they plan to pay more, so that's something.) I still think their union-busting is despicable and disgusting.  I still think the way they treat their women employees is criminal.

But yesterday the museum was filled with families -- many of them working class families; and young people, teens and young adults, many of them having driven miles across Arkansas on their own to see this art; and groups of senior citizens, all of them filled with happiness.

You know, you can't forgive Andrew Carnegie.  On the other hand, public libraries.


Bardiac said...

Yep. Carnegie, despite all the problems, left a lasting legacy to people of the US. And it sounds like Alice Walton did the same.

But still... It's difficult, the complexity, isn't it?

delagar said...

It's a complicated world.

Here's the thing, though -- the Waltons, like most of the 1% at this point, have more money than they could ever spend. Why not pay a living wage to their employees?

Yes, Crystal Bridges is a wonderful gift. Paying their employees a wage sufficient enough that those employees could feed and house their kids -- while also maybe saving up enough to send those kids to college -- that would be a wonderful gift as well.

And that is well within the means of the Walton clan.

Bardiac said...

I totally agree. Indeed, if they'd paid a living wage the whole time, it would have been better for everyone in the community all along.

The same with Carnegie. But both also made a lot of their money by exploiting others as ruthlessly as they could.