Artists from around the world will brighten up Fort Smith

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — The Un­ex­pected is ex­pected later this month to add an­other layer of col­or­ful and some­times bizarre public art that is turn­ing down­town into an in­ter­na­tional art gallery.

Of­fi­cials with the Un­ex­pected an­nounced the third group of ur­ban con­tem­po­rary artists from around the world who will fo­cus on more than just the mu­rals that have bright­ened down­town in the two ear­lier in­stall­ments.

“It’s a won­der­ful slate of artists with di­verse lo­ca­tions and styles who will bring a great pro­gram this year,” Un­ex­pected Di­rec­tor Claire Kol­berg said.

Artists will shift their to “in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary and par­tic­i­pa­tive art by re­vis­it­ing his­toric land­marks and hid­den gems of the down­town area,” a news re­lease on the an­nounce­ment said.

Ac­cord­ing to the news re­lease, the artists will be Lak­wena Maciver from Eng­land; Edgar Flores, aka Saner from Mex­ico; Alek­sei Bor­dusov, aka Aec from Ukraine; Felipe Pan­tone of Ar­gentina; Doze Green of New York; Crys­tal Wag­ner from Philadel­phia; and Cir­cus Fam­ily, a group of au­dio­vi­sual de­sign­ers from the Nether­lands.

Puerto Ri­can artist Ana Maria, who has be­come a res­i­dent artist in Fort Smith, and stu­dents from North­side and South­side high schools, also ex­pect to cre­ate new art dur­ing the Un­ex­pected.

An alum­nus of the first Un­ex­pected, D*Face, aka Dan Stock­ton of Eng­land, is ex­pected to re­turn to Fort Smith for the Peace­maker Mu­sic and Art Fest July 28 and 29 at River­front Park. The news re­lease said he will cre­ate “enor­mous in­flat­able art pieces.”

Many artists who have been to Fort Smith in the past for the Un­ex­pected have em­braced the city as a sec­ond home, Kol­berg said, en­joy­ing the small town at­mos­phere, not hav­ing to com­pete for work space and the friend­li­ness of the peo­ple.

The Un­ex­pected be­gan in 2015 with the idea of re­vers­ing the ex­o­dus of cul­tural ac­tiv­ity from down­town and mak­ing it more vi­brant and at­trac­tive, Kol­berg said. And cul­tural vi­brancy brings the hope for greater eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, she said.

The mu­rals and other works of the in­ter­na­tional artists in Fort Smith will com­ple­ment Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of American Art in Ben­tonville as an art des­ti­na­tion, Kol­berg said.

The grow­ing col­lec­tion of ur­ban con­tem­po­rary art also will es­tab­lish Arkansas as a leader in the genre, she said.

The Un­ex­pected has drawn the at­ten­tion of the art com­mu­nity around Arkansas.

Pa­trick Ral­ston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arkansas Arts

Coun­cil, said the event was a good way to get art out in the public eye.

“From our point of view, it’s an in­no­va­tive form of public art,” he said.

Over the past two or three decades, he said, putting art in fa­mil­iar lo­ca­tions has grown as cities try to rein­vig­o­rate their down­town ar­eas.

He said he liked the idea of the Un­ex­pected. He called some of the mu­rals in down­town Fort Smith in­cred­i­bly strik­ing.

“The fact Fort Smith un­der­took this is a trib­ute to the lo­cal lead­er­ship to bring art to their cit­i­zens,” Ral­ston said.

One of the more un­usual venues for the artists’ work this year will be the ex­er­cise yard of the Se­bas­tian County Ju­ve­nile De­ten­tion Cen­ter, an idea hatched last year by a Lead­er­ship Fort Smith class, Kol­berg said.

Lak­wena, with the per­mis­sion of county of­fi­cials, will bring her vi­brant geo­met­ric col­ors and ty­pog­ra­phy to cre­ate a 360-de­gree art ex­pe­ri­ence cov­er­ing the en­tire court­yard, the Un­ex­pected news re­lease said.

Kol­berg said the work will aim at help­ing the emo­tional and be­hav­ioral health of the youths in the lockup.

Lak­wena’s work will be avail­able to the public by video be­cause public ac­cess to the de­ten­tion cen­ter is barred, Kol­berg said.

Doze Green will cre­ate his art­work in the long-closed early 20th cen­tury New The­ater at 9 N. 10th St. The news re­lease de­scribed his work as im­mer­sive and am­bi­tious.

Pan­tone will cre­ate a large sculp­ture piece that will dou­ble as a pop-up skate park in the park­ing lot of the old Frisco Sta­tion at 102 Gar­ri­son Ave. Kol­berg said the skate park there will be tem­po­rary but will be moved to a per­ma­nent lo­ca­tion.

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