A Community’s Vision
Festivals combine to lift up city
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.