I am writing this open letter because I tried calling your PR office, but you did not return my call. Possibly this is a better format, since what I have to say is awkward, and it is this: It is not so hard to be decent, Amazon. Why must you always make Microsoft look like Mother Teresa?
A couple of years ago, The Stranger pointed out that you donated almost nothing to local arts groups, unlike every single other major corporation and bank in the city. So you started donating—a little. Yay! This matters. No, it is not required, but it is nice. And we all have to live together here in Seattle, Amazon. We are neighbors.
Now I bring to you another situation and a small request: Will you please consider being decent to the street artists whose paintings you chopped off and kept from the walls of the building you demolished for your brand-new, six-block campus in South Lake Union? I spoke to three of the artists; they do not want much. Their backstory: In 2007, they painted on the plywood exterior of Consolidated Works to honor the defunct contemporary art space where graffiti giant Barry McGee once exhibited. They intended the pieces as a gift to the public; when you tore the building down, your execs posed for snapshots with the ones they liked. Fast-forward to this year: Your interior designers at Interior Architects asked street-art curator Damion Hayes to identify the artists. He came to meet the designers, but when he asked whether he or the artists would be compensated, they showed him the door.
Is this really necessary, Amazon? Your new headquarters will have 1.7 million square feet of new offices, for which interior designers are being paid. When people come to these offices, according to what designers told Hayes, they will come face-to-face with large, colorful, vividly weathered paintings—these are not tags, they're paintings of characters and scenes, some up to seven-by-five feet—in prominent places, including outside the main elevator.
Nobody will know who the artists are. Or how to get in touch with them to see more. And the pieces, created for public consumption, will be entirely private. They'll make you look good, and you got them for free. You can't part with some cash for the artists? Maybe, say, fair market value? Or hold an opening reception and put up some labels?
There's still time, Amazon. You can still do right.