A Closer Look At the Walmart Foundation's Recent Foray Into Arts Funding

Walmart's been riding a nice little wave of positive PR as of late.

Back in February, Walmart announced that 50,000 employees were getting a raise. The decision was driven by perception and pure economics. On the perception side, Walmart is trying to shake the image that it only offers "dead-end" jobs. On the economic side, it discovered that if you pay employees more, they'll be less inclined to quit, they'll work harder, and morale will be higher. (Who knew?)

Of course, the company also runs its own foundation, focused on public health, higher education, and fighting hunger.

The arts isn't high on its priority list—in fact, if you check out the "Core Pillars" of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, the arts aren't even mentioned—but that could be changing.

The foundation recently awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Walton Arts Center, based in Walmart City, aka Fayetteville, Arkansas. The grant contributes to the Walton Arts Center’s $23 million campaign to add 30,000 square feet of space, the release states.

The grant is the next step in the center's ambition to become the premier arts destination in the state. Its development has mirrored Walmart's ever-expanding footprint in the city. But despite Walmart's integral involvement, the center, from the beginning, represented an unusual partnership between the public and private sectors.

On the private side, the University of Arkansas planted the seed in the late 1980s, when it began to explore the idea of building a performing arts center. The Walton Family then stepped in and provided critical seed funding. Throw in an aggressive fundraising campaign, and viola, the center opened, debt-free, in 1992.

The main question moving forward is to what extent the Walmart Foundation will continue to support the arts—both in Fayetteville and beyond.

Click here for more information on the Walmart Foundation's gift to the Walton Arts Center.