Lately, with a rare exception here and there, it has become very fashionable among art writers, bloggers and critics to demonize the efforts of Alice Walton’s no nonsense, robber-baroness approach to give the people of Bentonville, Arkansas a world class collection of art.
Regardless of how one feels about Ms. Walton’s wealth (she's the 20th richest person on the planet) and approach to buying art, Bentonville (population: 29,538) is not a place in which many people live, much less visit, and practically no one in the art world cares about it.
But needless to say, flyover states deserve a look at America's art historical tradition, too.
Other than an infectious and personal dislike by these writers for Ms. Walton’s approach, the barely hidden implication in their written words is that metropolitan areas like Seattle, Washington, Forth Worth, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri — places that people will visit — are more natural and deserving destinations for high art for our public American masses outside of New York.
This is elitist nonsense on a major scale.
There are very few places left in this nation where the reach of internationalism doesn’t touch. Early last year I was gallivanting all around the nation, and one of the places that I visited (for the first time in my case) was Arkansas. It’s rural OK, but it’s not what urbanites visualize.
Bentonville's next door neighbor, Fayetteville (population around 67,000) is the home to the 420-acre campus of the University of Arkansas (the only comprehensive, doctoral degree-granting institution in the state). Their enrollment has more than 14,600 students (more than 12,000 in undergraduate programs) and a diverse student population with 650 international students representing 86 countries.
And this place is rated by Money magazine as one of the top ten most desirable places in the nation in which to live or work.