A Com­mu­nity’s Vi­sion

Fes­ti­vals com­bine to lift up city

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RIVER VALLEY - — JO­CE­LYN MUR­PHY JMURPHY@NWADG.COM

As The Un­ex­pected fes­ti­val in Fort Smith en­ters its third year, one chal­lenge for or­ga­niz­ers likely was how to keep the event sur­pris­ing and fresh. What started as a mu­ral fes­ti­val — mak­ing Fort Smith an un­ex­pected city of mu­rals — ex­panded its reach (to Fayet­teville) as well as its medi­ums in its sec­ond year. Now the fes­ti­val’s next move is to com­bine with Fort Smith’s other ma­jor artis­tic event — The Peace­maker Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val.

“We both started in the same year, and both are fan­tas­tic fes­ti­vals ben­e­fit­ing down­town Fort Smith, which we’re all for,” says Bill Neumeier with Peace­maker.

“Al­ways with the idea that we would con­tinue to in­tro­duce new artists and au­di­ences to each other, now we have the ben­e­fit of in­tro­duc­ing our art au­di­ence to won­der­ful mu­sic and their au­di­ence to our art,” adds Claire Kol­berg, event or­ga­nizer for Un­ex­pected.

The goals of both events in­clude cre­at­ing more rea­sons to visit Fort Smith and re­vi­tal­iz­ing the vi­brancy of down­town. Or­ga­niz­ers hope that by join­ing to­gether in the same week­end — and same lo­ca­tion — the ben­e­fits will be dou­bled. One artist will paint a “popup” skate park open to the pub­lic at the fes­ti­val, and two in­flat­a­bles — cre­ated by past Un­ex­pected par­tic­i­pant D*FACE — are in­stalled at the am­phithe­ater dur­ing the fes­ti­val as ad­di­tional ways to en­gage Peace­maker au­di­ences.

“Year one down­town was so dif­fer­ent from year three down­town,” Kol­berg shares. “Just the amount of store­fronts that have filled up on the av­enue, the new shops, the new re­tail — it’s so in­spir­ing to see people re­ally pos­i­tively re­spond­ing in sync to what it is we’re do­ing down­town. It’s a great com­bi­na­tion of our past and our present and look­ing to the fu­ture, and I think that’s what is so beau­ti­ful about what we’re do­ing and the amount of en­gage­ment we re­ceive.”


Ur­ban artist Jaz and Pas­tel was part of 2016’s Un­ex­pected fes­ti­val, which has con­trib­uted to 25 pub­lic art pieces around the city of Fort Smith. The fes­ti­val re­turns Sun­day through July 30.

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