The Unexpected, Urban Art Festival, Fort Smith, Arkansas 2017

Creative house ​Justkids recently wrapped up its third edition of ​The Unexpected​. The annual urban art festival took place from 23- 30th  2017, bringing together world renowned artists to create larger than life art experiences in Fort Smith, Arkansas. A challenge but also a game changer for the area.

Artists invited to come and play were; Doze Green (NY), Circus Family (Amsterdam), Lakwena (London), Crystal Wagner (US), Felipe Pantone (Argentina), Saner (México) and AEC Interesni Kazki (Ukraine).

“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.” Charlotte Dutoit, Justkids Founder and curator

To kick off the week long art programming in the downtown area, legendary New York artist ​Doze Green introduced his metaphysical reinterpretation of life with “The Divine Sparks Project”. The project encompassed diverse media such as animation, muralism, light and sound installation inside an abandoned 10,00 square feet Art Nouveau Theatre originally built in 1910. The installation, which was produced in a time frame of five weeks, marks a revival for the historic landmark, which had remained closed to the public for more than thirty years.

London Artist ​Lakwena Maciver brought her uplifting typography to Fort Smith’s Juvenile Detention Center with the help of the young detainees. Her brand new installation “Still I Rise” is a 360° mural inspired by the beautifully powerful poem of Maya Angelou (who spent her childhood in Arkansas), painted on the walls and floor of the centre’s courtyard with the help and participation of the young detainees. Maya Angelou’s poem focuses on a hopeful determination to rise above difficulty and discouragement.

“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”. Lakwena Maciver

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 latest “growth” sculpture took over the historical Reynolds Davis building, in the heart of the Downtown. 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).

“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”. Crystal Wagner

The Amsterdam audiovisual collective, Circus Family, lit up a former signshop with their interactive installation Triph in the downtown area. On view until until August 13th, ​Triph ​comes alive when the visitors approach and interact with the installation, stimulating colour and sound with their movements and revealing the magic.

Mexican master muralist Saner teamed up with ​Ukrainian oneiric decoder ​AEC ​from the world famous duo ​Interesni Kazki, their latest folkloric collaboration is a spectacular oneiric mural about multiculturalism 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.

Coinciding with Peacemaker Music Festival, Justkids also inserted some eye candy within the festival grounds, popping up two ​D*Face​’s monumental zombie inflatables, Zombie Kitty and Zombie Snoopy, floating by the Arkansas River.

Check out the recap video below …
Photo/ Video credit JustKids



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