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Street Artists Transform City in Arkansas Into Their Own Outdoor Art Gallery

For the second year, a group of international street artists touched down in Fort Smith, Arkansas for the Unexpected Festival. With an aim to bring urban contemporary art to northern Arkansas over the course of ten days, nine artists painted murals, created indoor/outdoor installations, and cast video projections under the curation of Charlotte Dutoit from JUSTKIDS. This year's lineup of top-notch artists include Alex Diaz, Okuda, Faith47, Guido van Helten, Cyrcle, Maser, Bordalo II, Jaz, and Pastel.

Working on the grain elevators of O.K. Feed Mills, artist Guido van Helten draws inspiration from the citizens of Fort Smith for his impressive mural. The figures represent Ed, a Native American from the Apache Tribe, Kristina, a young woman who runs a local business, and Gene Bechkam. The artist shares, “Gene Beckham worked at this grain elevator for 70 years leaving only once to fight in the Second World War. Ten years ago Gene retired only to return to work the following Monday, and continued to work up until last year.”

Other highlights of the festival include the work of Spanish artist Okuda, who continues his trend of transforming spaces, with the colorful The Universal Chapel. By painting the entire exterior of this abandoned house, the artist gives new life to a once forgotten space. Beyond painted interventions, Bordalo II visited the local junkyard to source materials for his two trash-turned-sculpture pieces representing a fox and opossum, two animals found in the area. At the Windgate Arts and Design building of University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Maser created three-dimensional sensory immersion with an interactive installation using neon, sound, and ribbon. The Irish artist makes you confront the dark with colors and line variations that challenge common visual representation.

This immersive and visually stimulating exhibition is currently running through October 1, 2016.

Above image: Okuda, The Universal Chapel

Okuda, The Universal Chapel

Guido van Helten

Guido van Helten, work in progress

Faith47, Royal Spirits

Bordalo II, Fox

Bordalo II, Opossum

Jaz and Pastel, Rapto Divino En Fort Smith (The Divine Rapt in Fort Smith)

Maser, Argon

Alex Diaz, work in progress. 

Alex Diaz

Unexpected Festival: Website | Facebook | Instagram
Just Kids Official: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by JUSTKIDS.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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