Street Art

Installations, Skate Parks, Light Rooms: The Unexpected Wraps Up in Fort Smith, Arkansas

August 11, 2017

Juxtapoz was down in Fort Smith, Arkansas for a few days, checking out what is now the 3rd year of The Unexpected by JustKids, a well-curated mural, installation, gallery, and site-specific festival that brought world-renowned artists to America's heartland. We will have a full wrap up and review in the next print edition of Juxtapoz, but for now, we wanted to show you the completed works and final installations from The Unexpected. 

Justkids owner and curator Charlotte Dutoit states of The Unexpected, “We were interested in putting together more interdisciplinary projects that would get viewers to revisit some of the historic landmarks in Fort Smith, discover hidden gems of the Downtown and participate in the creative process. We give the artists an opportunity to express themselves in an unlikely environment while building a beneficial cultural capital where it’s needed. Right in the heart of America.”

The 3rd edition of the annual event brought together Doze Green (New York), Circus Family (Amsterdam), Lakwena (London), Crystal Wagner (US), Felipe Pantone (Argentina), Saner (México) and AEC Interesni Kazki (Ukraine).

To kick off the week long art programming in the downtown area, legendary New York artist Doze Green introduces his metaphysical reinterpretation of life with “The Divine Sparks Project” that opened in july 22nd. Encompassing diverse media such as animation, muralism, light and sound installation, The Divine Sparks Project by Doze intercepts various disciplines of art within Fort Smith’s former New Theater. Breathing new life into the former Art Nouveau playhouse originally built in 1910. The installation, who was produced in a time frame of 5 weeks, marks a revival for the historic landmark, which had remained dilapidated and closed to the public for more than 30 years.

London artist Lakwena Maciver intercepted yet another monumentally ambitious project: the county’s Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Smith. Her brand new installation "Still I Rise" is a 360° mural inspired by the poem of Maya Angelou (who spent her childhood in Arkansas), painted on the walls and floor of the center’s courtyard with the help and participation of the young detainees. Combining visual art, teaching and social action, this beautifully relevant undertaking received tremendous support from the local community as well as state officials with an inaugural visit by Arkansas State Governor Asa Hutchinson on June 28th. In relation to her experience working with the juveniles the artist stated; “Still I Rise talks about rising above adversity, rising above trials. I chose to put her words on the walls to hopefully inspire these kids. Everything in the design, all of the pattern and words are laid out trying to lift your eyes up. Up into the sky”.

Spanish/Argentinian sensation Felipe Pantone delivered his massive free-standing sculpture "Multistabilitas," that doubled as a “pop-up” skate park right in front of the Fort Smith National Historic Site. The iconic op-art phenomena collaborated with local riders from Boardertown Skate shop in the design and fabrication of the ephemeral ramps which are now open to the public!

Pennsylvania based contemporary artist Crystal Wagner also joined the lineup creating Lithotroph, her most ambitious public sculpture installation yet. Her massive artwork is wrapped around the remaining facade of the historical Reynolds Davis building, pleasantly disrupting the Old West urban landscape of Downtown Fort Smith. The process required the daily help of dozens of volunteers, including the enthusiastic staff of the most prestigious art institution in the region, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (situated at one hour from Fort Smith, in Bentonville). In relation to the monumental and collaborative process catalyzed, the artist emphasized: “I am interested in the dialog between architecture and natural forms and structures. Lithotroph is an pseudo-organism born of the modern world with the biological utility of an organic growth”.

The Amsterdam audiovisual collective, Circus Family, also added to the immersive art experiences available with this year’s iteration of The Unexpected. Their mesmerizing light installation Triph was commissioned to be re-programed and adapted to a former neon and sign maker shop in the downtown area. On view until until August 13th, Triph comes alive when the visitors approach and interact with the installation, stimulating color and sound with their movements and revealing the magic.

Mexican master muralist Saner team up with Ukrainian oneiric decoder AEC from the world famous duo Interesni Kazki to collaborate in the creation of a large scale mural that brilliantly touches themes of multiculturalism through colors, forms, folklore and iconography. Impossible to explain in words the street piece can be seen at the corner of 8th street and Garrison ave.

Ana María, the renowned Puerto Rican artist and now resident of Fort Smith put forward her much anticipated solo exhibition in her new hometown of Arkansas, rightfully titled Feral Kingdom. The show offers a unique insight of the artist most recent studio work as well as a brand new interior mural created specifically for the event. Produced and curated by Justkids, this show not only reaches but traps the expectators in the long and alluring tentacles of the artist reality.

The Unexpected took place from July 23—30, 2017.