CBID approves money for Gateway Park, gets update on The Unexpected festival

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 1,202 views 

Artist rendering of the Gateway Park planned for downtown Fort Smith.

The planned Gateway Park in downtown Fort Smith will receive $15,000 in support from the Central Business Improvement District (CBID). The park, estimated to cost $579,770, will be built with private dollars through naming opportunites and other donations.

Jim Spears, who is working with developer Rick Griffin on the park project, made the pitch for funding during the CBID regular meeting Tuesday (Oct. 16) morning. The park will be built within the triangle of land in eastern downtown Fort Smith created by the intersection of Rogers and Garrison Avenues.

“The eastern entrance to downtown Fort Smith, at the intersection of Garrison Avenue and Rogers Avenue, represents an opportunity for a beautiful and memorable gateway into our downtown,” noted literature about the park project.

The Gateway Park project will be managed by 64.6 Downtown, the group behind The Unexpected festival, Invest Fort Smith summit and other downtown promotions. They will initially own and develop the park, and then transfer ownership to the city. Griffin has said he expects the park to be finished in less than three years.

The park will include statues of Judge Isaac Parker, John Carnall, and Mother Superior Mary Teresa Farrell. Carnall, born in 1818, was an early leader in the Fort Smith Public School system, and Farrell, who arrived in Fort Smith in 1853, was instrumental in bringing healthcare to the region.

Of the total project cost, $237,770 is for construction and $342,000 is for the statues. Spencer Schubert of Kansas City, Mo.-based E.S. Schubert Sculpture Studios, is the statue artist on the project.

CBID members also heard from Talicia Richardson, executive director of 64.6 Downtown, and John McIntosh, production/development for 64.6 Downtown, about the upcoming Unexpected Festival.

64.6 Downtown — a nonprofit funded and created by Propak owner and CBID member Steve Clark — has organized the festival since 2015. This year’s event is set for Oct. 22-28. The Unexpected was the 2017 Henry Award winner for Community Tourism Development and is designed “to bring high-quality urban and contemporary art to Arkansas alongside their curatorial partner, the international creative house, Justkids.” Justkids is a creative house that conceives and produces art projects internationally.

Following are the artists for 2018 and locations for their work.
• 418 Towson Avenue – Puerto Rican muralist Alexis Diaz
• 421 Towson Avenue – Buffalo, aka, Fort Smith artist Nate Meyers
• 200 Block of Towson Avenue – Portuguese artist and master tile pattern painter Add Fuel
• North C Street and Towson Avenue – British graffiti artist Pref
• 800 Block of Garrison Avenue – Puerto Rican artist Ana Maria
• 914 Garrison Avenue (Bastion Gallery) – Tulsa artist Yatika Fields
• 16 N. Third St. – Northside and Southside High School students
• 10th Street and Grand Avenue – Chicago artist Cody Hudson

According to The Unexpected, Hudson will complete “an impressive wrap of the abandoned Tankersley Brothers warehouse across from the newly restored Masonic Temple on Grand Ave and North B Street. His mural will add distinct abstract work and vibrant color to the former unassuming building.”

Richardson and McIntosh said the mural and other art work will help visually improve entry points to downtown Fort Smith. McIntosh said the work by Add Fuel on the 200 Block of Towson Avenue will be impressive.

“It will probably be one of the most talked about murals we’ve done in Fort Smith,” he said.

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