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Arts Notes - Artists against Wal-Mart
THE STRAIGHT (Vancouver) - 07/16/05
by Pieta Wooley

Wal-Mart's proposal to build a big-box store on Marine Drive was defeated at city council last month, after councillors listened to choruses by the Raging Grannies and the Solidarity Notes. This particular brand of protest may have been a first at City Hall, but it's something Wal-Mart has heard before.

Across North America, artists are picking up their brushes and raising their voices to stop the retail giant. For example, Mark Vallen, an eminent Los Angeles-based painter-activist and blogger, uses his Web site to critique Wal-Mart's plans for a mega-museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, by 2009.

"When those in the Walton Family Foundation who suffer from delusions of grandeur consider themselves to be the protectors of art history, that's one thing," Vallen wrote in a May blog on "But when others, especially those in the art world, accept them as guardians of the world's art treasures... that's nothing short of a travesty."

Near Bentonville in Fayetteville, police caught stencillists and poster-makers graffitizing the local conference centre, in protest of Wal-Mart's 2004 annual shareholders' meeting. According to, the protesters made the local news but were unable to finish their piece.

In Guelph, Ontario, singer-songwriter Sam Turton is leading the charge against Wal-Mart's plans to build a 135,000-square-foot store in between the city's historic Jesuit retreat centre, an organic farm, and two cemeteries. The latest tactic in the decade-long protest involves a CD called Not There, named for a song Turton wrote.

A verse: "But council turned right and sold their souls/So the people joined hands at that old crossroads/For the dead and the living gonna take it to the judge/Gonna hold our ground in the name of love".

Turton explained to the Straight that most artists do not find the idea of corporate control inspiring. The CD, featuring music from a wide range of Ontario artists, is available at