Unexpected Project treats downtown Fort Smith as its canvas
The Unexpected art project treats downtown Fort Smith as its canvas
By the time the September issue of this magazine is in your hands, art could be coming at you from any direction. For the second year, the Unexpected, a festival of urban art installations, will happen in downtown Fort Smith. Nine artists of international origin and global renown are invited to use our city as their canvas from Sept. 2-11.
As no one who has eyes could have missed, downtown Fort Smith was transformed at the first Unexpected festival when large-scale, visually arresting artwork emerged on exterior walls. Spectators were drawn, then riveted, to hang around and watch. The festival figured itself out, as intended. The point was to see, react and discuss.
What will that be, how do they do that, why? Do you like it??I think I like it. Where are you from? ... These questions evolved into “Hi! Can I get you something to eat or drink?”
The visiting artists reported after the festival that they were overwhelmed by the response of our friendly populace. Two of them return this year - Maser, a native of Ireland, and D*FACE, a Brit.
Local artists, like Southside High School art teacher David King, could not stay away. He kept running into his students and Northside art teacher LaDawna Dillman, who also encountered her kids on the streets. Together they petitioned the Unexpected for a wall in the 2016 festival. The rival high schools artists will collaborate on their piece, which selected students have been planning since last year with their respective art department faculties.
Art students of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, who created a mural on North B Street last year, will take on a wall again. The UAFS Windgate Art & Design Building will again have a related exhibit and opening reception at 6 p.m. Sept. 1. The exhibit is an immersive installation by Maser titled “Argon.” Expect to step inside a free-standing structure wrapped geometrically with contrasting color bands. From his start as a Dublin graffiti writer, Maser has begun to take over whole buildings or to create immersive environments. The exhibit will be open to the public from Sept. 1-Oct. 1 at 535 Waldron Road on the UAFS campus. The reception is sponsored by the UAFS Foundation and the Chancellor’s Coalition for the Visual Arts.
Steve Clark of Propak Logistics founded The Unexpected, inspired by a prior commission of Maser to create a mural at Boardertown Skatepark. Maser has created a work at the Fort Smith skatepark more than once and twice at the same wall facing the U.S. Post Office on Garrison and Towson Avenues.
A coalition force with JustKids art and design group’s curator Claire Kolberg and 64.6 Downtown, a non-profit redevelopment group working to support Fort Smith economic and cultural growth, again presents this festival, underwritten by local donors.
International interest generated by images and video of the first Unexpected event made Fort Smith notable to the creative world. The festival planners and sponsors have said they participate in order to influence more preservation, adaptive redevelopment and investment in entrepreneurial ventures in Fort Smith.
Images of works around the world, from New Zealand to Europe to Latin America, can be seen at the artist’s websites and social media. They have carte blanche to create any kind of work on their walls here.
The time is when it is light enough to see. The place is downtown. It is free. What will happen? The point is to go downtown and see.
This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.