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Movers & Shakers

We See You: Olivia Walton

The former journalist—and self-described museum junkie—is now looking to expand access to art.

DP’s series of the people—young, old, and everyone in between—who most intrigue us.

Why we’re watching her:
Walton is not just a member of one of the wealthiest families in America, the one-time reporter is a major force in arts and philanthropy in her adopted home state of Arkansas and beyond.

Not to be confused with:
Olivia Walton, the depression era mother of seven played by Michael Learned in The Waltons. (Though we’re sure she would wish John Boy goodnight.)

Before marrying Tom Walton, grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton, the Manhattan-bred mom-of-two worked as a journalist for NBC News, MSNBC and Bloomberg Television in New York and London.  

We know you’re curious:
The Walmart heirs’ combined worth is roughly $234 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The art of life:
Walton, a self-described museum junkie and daughter of an art dealer, serves as Chairman of the Board of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville where she is committed to bringing attention to craft and indigenous art. “For a long time, the only people who had access to art tended to be wealthy, white, and overwhelmingly male,” she has said. “If you look at craft in this region, it was the artistic, creative outlet for those who just didn’t have access to those things.”

Catch her in the wild:
Look for Walton scouring art meccas from Venice to Manhattan and using her connections to bring home the goods. On a recent trip to Sotheby’s, she watched as a rare first printing of the U.S. Constitution sold for $43.2 million. Walton instantly called in a wee favor and arranged for it to be loaned for display in Bentonville. 

A little counter-programing:
While Arkansas politicos are famously NOT trans-friendly, according to The Advocate, the Walmart family heirs created a $1 million fund for organizations that support LGBTQ+ rights in their home state. “You belong here,” Olivia and Tom Walton said in a statement, reported the Associated Press.

Party spirit animal:
The bee: known for hard work, community building, and yes, prosperity, this busy bee also serves on the board of Teach for America.

While Walton has said her childhood ambition was to lead the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the world is her oyster when it comes to expanding her museum’s footprint in Arkansas.

Hero and feature images by Beth Hall, courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

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