Festival of Murals organizers reveal ‘Unexpected’ event schedule, sponsors

A schedule, sponsors and location detail have been made public by organizers of the inaugural Festival of Murals event to be held in Downtown Fort Smith. At least seven U.S. and international artists will participate in the murals work, with 18 artists participating in the “Unexpected Art in the Park.”

The festival is set for Sept. 6-13 in downtown Fort Smith, with several events to coincide with large murals painted or applied to several downtown buildings. The first year of the event is being pitched as “The Unexpected Project” by Steve Clark, owner of Propak Logistics, and a CBID member and active supporter of the murals effort. The project is part of 64.6 Downtown, an organization formed in January to promote downtown Fort Smith.

Dutoit, an art curator from France and owner of the JustKids artist network, is working with the group to select artists and areas in downtown Fort Smith for the inaugural event. In addition to the national and international artists, Dutoit said they will select local artists from Arkansas and nearby states for other art projects, including sidewalk art.

John McIntosh is leading the murals project. His team for the effort is Claire Kolberg, festival coordinator; Don Lee, head of the art department at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; Galen Hunter with Fort Smith-based MAHG Architects; and Jim Perry with Fort Smith-based ArcBest.

Rom Levy, with StreetArtNews and a partner with Dutoit on the project, has a lead role in developing the social media strategy for the event. He said he and Dutoit have coordinated many of these events and are confident they “know how to reach the people and hit the right targets.”

The Unexpected Art in the Park will include painting, sculpture, pottery, wood work, limestone carvings and fiber art. Not only with the artists be creating art, they will have art works on sale.

Following is the schedule for the event and associated events.
• Aug. 26, 5 to 9 p.m.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
Claire Kolberg presentation to Artinfusion group: “Street Art – it’s inception, history and today.”

• Sept. 3, 7 p.m.
University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Windgate Art & Design Building
Unexpected PRINTOLOGY Gallery Show

• Sept. 4
Downtown FS mural paintings begin (See www.646downtown.com for all wall locations)

• Sept. 4
Downtown FS Unexpected HQ opens; will include mural and artist info, t-shirts, coffee shop

• Sept. 8
Unexpected Student Art Competition judging. Painted skateboard decks. Winners announced Sept. 12.

• Sept. 10
UAFS Blue Lion Spoken Word event, featuring Malcolm London at 7:30 p.m.

• Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (free admission)
Unexpected Art in the Park
Ross Pendergraft Park in downtown Fort Smith

• Sept. 12
Unexpected Finale Celebration (private) for artists, sponsors and volunteers

More details on festival events will be posted on the 64.6 Downtown website. Link here for a map of planned mural locations.

Propak is the primary sponsor of the event, and is supporting the curator and international media outreach. Visiting artist underwriters are Arvest Bank, Beaty Capital & Temple Holdings, BHC Insurance, Cooper Clinic First National Bank of Fort Smith, the Hanna Family, Mercy Fort Smith and Sparks Health System.
Marketing and event promotion sponsors are Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., Beautify Fort Smith, Ray Gosack, Maggie Malloy, Network of Executive Women, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, and Penny Packard.

McIntosh on Tuesday morning briefed the Central Business Improvement District on the festival. In an interview with The City Wire after that meeting, McIntosh said the CBID is supportive and “there were a lot of positive head nods” during the presentation.

“Everything is lined up, all our permitting is complete, and I’m happy so far with all of the sponsorships from the community at large. We continue to pursue sponsorships with other community organizations,” McIntosh said.

He also said that as part of their marketing strategy, they do not plan to release names of the artists until a few weeks prior to the event.
Also shaping up is the “Hell On The Border” Criterium as part of the Arkansas State Criterium Championships, according to event organizer Spencer Kinsey. The event, set to begin at 8 a.m. on Sept. 13,  could draw hundreds, if not thousands, to downtown Fort Smith.

The course is located in downtown Fort Smith on Garrison Avenue. It is a 6-turn, 81 mile “L” shape course. The start-finish line will be near 8th and Garrison, and the Festival of Murals will play an incidental part in the race.

“Two of our murals will be right there, literally, on the start-finish line,” McIntosh said.