When we moved to Fort Smith we loved sitting on our porch, walking around our neighborhood and being in such close proximity to downtown and the riverfront. Unfortunately, much of Fort Smith doesn’t seem to feel the same way about the area. We soon discovered that downtown Fort Smith and it’s surrounding neighborhoods are under-appreciated. It’s easy to focus on vacant lots and dilapidated buildings (commercial and residential), or even imagine the bygone days of the Old West and the Fort Smith of True Grit, but it’s much harder to imagine a modern and vibrant future here.
Above: detail of the Vhils mural
Recently, however, Fort Smith played host to the Unexpected Project: Festival of Murals which seemed to hint at a way forward. Over about a week of festivities, eleven murals were painted on downtown Fort Smith buildings. The Festival was part of 64.6 Downtown which “is committed to bringing vibrancy to downtown Fort Smith and the Riverfront. Downtown is our heart and soul, and quality of place is essential to Fort Smith’s future economic and community growth. We invite you to share our vision with us.”
The whole thing felt pretty refreshing for downtown Fort Smith, and even though a number of the murals featured Western motifs, they had a modern edge.
One of our favorites was by VHILS (above) which was based off the earliest images of Cherokee Indians. For a town that often seems stuck to it’s past as the last outpost before Indian Territory, it’s a pretty powerful image to have looming over downtown. The technique used was also different than the rest of the murals:
“Layers of white and dark plaster were applied over the bricks of the old Malco Theater building to give the artist a canvas for what is now the face of a Native American.” You can read more about it here.
Above: “Bad Lands” by D*Face
Above: a mural of Gutenberg done by UAFS students
Above: Ana María
Above: from “Catira” by Bicicleta Sem Freio
Above: Ana María
Above: “The Otter” by ROA