International artists named for downtown Fort Smith murals festival

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 344 views 

The Unexpected Project on Thursday (Aug. 13) announced eight popular international urban and street artists for the line up of the inaugural Festival of Murals set for Sept. 3-12 in downtown Fort Smith. The artists range in geography includes from Ireland to Belgium to Brazil.

The festival is set for Sept. 6-13 in downtown Fort Smith, with several events to coincide with large murals painted or applied to several downtown buildings. The first year of the event is being pitched as “The Unexpected Project” by Steve Clark, owner of Propak Logistics, and a CBID member and active supporter of the murals effort. The project is part of 64.6 Downtown, an organization formed in January to promote downtown Fort Smith.

Charlotte Dutoit, an art curator from France and owner of the JustKids artist network, is working with the group to select artists and areas in downtown Fort Smith for the inaugural event. JustKids collaborates with cities, groups and others to create large scale art events, gallery shows and design spaces with a global network of artists, curators, designers and art consultants on an international scale.

“We are lucky as Fort Smith has some huge and beautiful buildings. It’s a fantastic playground for us and the history of the downtown as a true Western city is highly inspiring for the artists,” Dutoit said in a statement.

John McIntosh is leading the murals project. His team for the effort is Claire Kolberg, festival coordinator; Don Lee, head of the art department at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; Galen Hunter with Fort Smith-based MAHG Architects; and Jim Perry with Fort Smith-based ArcBest. Also involved is Rom Levy with StreetArtNews and a partner with Dutoit on the project.

“The Unexpected is an opportunity to bring art to the Fort Smith community, and to engage the community on a meaningful level,” Kolberg said. “Downtown Fort Smith could be poised to become the largest outdoor art gallery in the state.”

The festival will kick off Sept. 3 with a print show entitled “Printology” at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith new Windgate Arts and Design Building. Curated by JUSTKIDS, and sponsored by the UAFS Foundation, this retrospective exhibition will feature some iconic works from the most renowned artists from the Urban Scene such as Banksy, Invader and Shepard Fairey. The exhibition runs through the end of October.

During the week and in between 10-square blocks, a series of downtown historic buildings will be painted and the public is invited to witness the process as the internationally renowned artists complete their murals.

Following are the artists selected for the primary murals work.

• Maser
Born in Ireland, Maser began his street art career in Dublin and by 1995 was a rising star in outdoor art circles. Maser painted the mural of General Darby in downtown Fort Smith, and in March partnered with Conor Harrington on a large mural project on the backside of retail space in the Quarry Shopping Center in Fort Smith. Maser is now based in Fayetteville. On the international scene, Maser had an active role in New Year’s celebrations in Sydney, with his art being a focal point for activities near the famed Sydney Opera House.

• Vhils
Born Alexandre Farto in Portugal in 1987, Vhils is a popular urban graffiti artist in Europe, and his work includes being part of an art film collaboration directed by the band U2. His work includes walls, billboards, wood, cork styrofoam and explosives.

• D*Face
Also known as Dean Stockton, D*Face is an artist from the United Kingdom who credits subway graffiti art in New York City for his early interest in art. He has collaborated with Christina Aguilera. His primary forms of street art include spray paint, stickers, posters and stencils.

• Roa
According to Street Art Bio, Roa is a muralist from Belgium whose work is often photographed but little is known about the artist. Like Maser, Roa avoids pictures or video of his face. “Roa is primarily known for his strong obsession for animals and rodents. He often combines life, death, and life after death in his murals, which quickly distinguishes him amongst traditional muralists,” noted Street Art Bio.

• Ben Eine
Born Ben Flynn in London in August 1970, Eine is a prolific and popular street artist based in London. His specialty is painting large single letters on store fronts. During his first official visit to the U.S., Prime Minister David Cameron presented some of Eine’s work to President Barack Obama. According to Black Book Gallery, Eine has partnered with the legendary Banksy.

• Ana Maria
Ana Maria is from Puerto Rico and based in Houston. She is an indoor and outdoor muralist known for her work in Europe and the U.S., to include large projects in Italy, Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas.

• Bicicleta Sem Freio
This is not a person, but Brazilians Douglas De Castro and Renato Perreira who work under the name Bicicleta Sem Freio. The pair have recently become known worldwide for large scale, multi-color work. “Their signature style, which draws references from their roots in music, Brazilian culture, their love for 80s and pop culture iconography, have been emerging on large-scale public installations all over the world, including recently on a mythical Oscar Nemeyer building in Brazil,” noted Street Art News.

In addition to the mural festival, there are several other related activities including a spoken word night with Chicago poet and activist Malcolm London on Sept. 10 and an Art in the Park event Sept. 12 where local artists will have an opportunity to paint in an open-air setting.

Following is the schedule for the event and associated events.
Aug. 26, 5 to 9 p.m.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
Claire Kolberg presentation to Artinfusion group: “Street Art – it’s inception, history and today.”

Sept. 3, 6 to 9 p.m.
University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Windgate Art & Design Building
Unexpected PRINTOLOGY Gallery Show; sponsored by UAFS Foundation and JustKids

Sept. 4
Downtown FS mural paintings begin (See www.646downtown.comfor all wall locations)

Sept. 10, 6 p.m.
UAFS Blue Lion Spoken Word event, featuring Malcolm London and Kevin Coval

Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (free admission)
Unexpected Art in the Park
Ross Pendergraft Park in downtown Fort Smith

Sept. 12
Unexpected Finale Celebration (private) for artists, sponsors and volunteers

Sept. 12-13
Artist complete their murals