Walking the wide streets of Ft. Smith, the second largest city in Arkansas near the Oklahoma border, one might expect to find small businesses, historical landmarks, the occasional live music venue, and few shuttered storefronts. What you might not expect to see are towering murals from international street artists around almost every corner, but that’s exactly what’s happening with The Unexpected, an ambitious local effort to bring significant public artworks to the streets of Ft. Smith in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.
Funded in part by local non-profit 646 Downtown and curated by JustKids, the event is now in its second year and has brought over 20 artworks that blanket old buildings, grain silos, store facades, and even a sculpture in a small park. The initiative has also engaged emerging artists from both the University of Arkansas and students from two local high schools who were invited to create their own murals around the city.
This year saw new pieces by Okuda, Faith47, Dface, Bordalo II, Jaz & Pastel, Alexis Diaz, Maser, Guido van Helten, and Cyrcle. The artworks went up over the first week of September with the aid of countless local volunteers and support staff. If you happen to stop by here’s a handy map, and there’s even an app where users can navigate to different artworks, submit their own photos and leave comments. You can see all of the completed works from both 2015 and 2016 on Instagram and Facebook. Photos by Raymesh.
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The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is considered one of the crowning examples of organic architecture, a philosophy credited to Frank Lloyd Wright that promotes a harmony between the natural world and human habitation. The non-denominational chapel was designed in 1980 by an apprentice of Wright’s, architect E. Fay Jones, who employed the use of steel and glass to create a weightless, almost translucent structure that offers sweeping views in all directions of the surrounding Ozark habitat. In keeping with the organic design of the chapel Fay asked that no construction element be larger than what two people could carry through the woods by hand.
Recently a power company has applied to build a 48-mile high voltage transmission line through Northwest Arkansas that will cut through the woods right next to the chapel, shattering the views and serenity offered by the extremely unique building that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. For those interested, the Arkansas Public Service Commission is accepting comments from the public regarding the proposed power line construction. You can also read much more over on Hyperallergic.
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