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.