Art Amiss ‘is all about the artists’

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 114 views 

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of five features about local designers participating in the opening night of runway shows for NWA Fashion Week. Thursday (March 8) is dedicated to home-grown fashion sources, such as Art Amiss.

FAYETTEVILLE — One area group has done more than almost any other to truly keep Fayetteville looking funky.

Art Amiss, a Fayetteville not-for-profit art collective, supports and sustains the local creative community, including area fashion designers through the Art Amiss Fashion segment. For the last six years, the organization has held two annual fundraisers, mostly fashion shows, but also including events that showcase Art Amiss’ music, literature, and visual arts segments. Proceeds go to grants for local artists.

“The goal has always been to put on local art-related events within the community and then give the money earned from those events back to local artists,” said Art Amiss fashion director Melissa Arens.

To that end, Art Amiss Fashion will be headlining a runway show for local designers Thursday (March 8) at East Square Plaza. The show is the first of three nights of shows scheduled for the first-ever NWA Fashion Week. Art Amiss’ participation should expand the organization’s scope and attention in the area.

“Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week is a big publicity jump for us,” said Arens. The Art Amiss show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. VIP tickets are sold out, but some $25 general admission tickets are still available, according to the NWA Fashion Week website.

In the past, Art Amiss shows have put a premium on the creative over the merely functional, often staging their shows at unusual venues or combining fashion and installation art. Fashion week’s traditional runway format is more traditional than Art Amiss is used to, but the boost in visibility is well worth the compromise, said Art Amiss President Bo Counts.

“To be asked to not only just be involved in fashion week, but to also be a headliner, is a big honor for us,” said Counts. “We’re pretty established in the art community, but this allows us to get into some channels that we probably don’t normally reach, especially in terms of the whole of Northwest Arkansas, outside of just Fayetteville.”

Arens took over as Art Amiss fashion director in 2010, after working for years as a hair and makeup designer for the organization’s shows. She’s co-owner of the Mayapple Salon and Boutique in Fayetteville and stocks lines by many of the designers associated with Art Amiss and NWA Fashion Week: Lauren Embree Jewelry, Onemanband by Emily Smith, BonnerBell, and J Marie Designs by Jennifer Simmons.

For the designers involved, Art Amiss is a chance to show their wares in a creative, friendly environment and give their line a push on to bigger things. They also enjoy a sense of community, joining forces and rallying each other to new heights.

“Art Amiss really opens the door to collaboration with other artists,” said Lauren Embree. “Having the chance to work with makeup and hair artists, clothing designers and stylists pushes my creativity in new directions, and I think that is reflected in my designs.”

Arens has enlisted emerging designers from locales as far away as Los Angeles and Portland to recent Art Amiss shows. Some might perceive this as going against the organization’s ethos, but Arens insists all the benefits remain purely local.

“It’s really all about bringing a freshness to the shows and inspiring our local designers here in Arkansas,” said Arens. “And, of course, all of the proceeds are still going to support our local artists.”

The Art Amiss show will include designs from local designers J Marie Designs by Jennifer Simmons; Onemanband Designs by Emily Smith; Lauren Embree Jewelry; and BonnerBell; as well as Beth Chambers Designs from Joplin, Mo.; Nicolia Jacoby Jewelry, formerly of Fayetteville and now of Seattle, Wash.; Tibetan Fox Screenprinting Designs of Portland, Ore.; and 2013 A.D. from Venice, Calif. In addition, Arens and Mayapple Salon will have a segment to show off their hair and makeup designs.

“In terms of charities, what is unique and cool about Art Amiss, is you get to directly support exactly what you see on the runway,” said Counts, “Because what we are and what we are all about are the artists.”