Unexpected’s Steve Clark wins Governor’s Arts Award

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,220 views 

Steve Clark, chief executive officer of Fort Smith’s Propak Corp. and founder of 64.6 Downtown, was selected as a recipient of the 2019 Governor’s Arts Award.

Clark will be awarded the Arts Community Development award for his work in Fort Smith, specifically through The Unexpected, bringing urban and contemporary art to Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Arts Council.

Since 2015, 64.6 Downtown has brought urban and contemporary art to Arkansas, including the annual weeklong The Unexpected.

“The event brings in renowned artists to create public art – typically large-scale murals on buildings, sculptures and art installations in Fort Smith. The event has led to a resurgence in development in downtown Fort Smith, as well as an increase in music and performing arts events throughout the year,” said information on the Arkansas Arts Council website. “Steve’s efforts also have led to the creation of Garrison Commons, a pocket park and open-air gathering venue in Fort Smith that includes a small stage for live events, movie nights, food trucks and eating areas.”

Clark said he was humbled and honored to receive the award, noting it speaks to the power of citizen-led arts programs for economic development and how it engages the community.

“This shows that when we work together as people, we can do really great things,” Clark said. “This puts a unique pressure on those of us leading the way for new and varied undertakings.”

The Unexpected plays a vital role in celebrating the arts as an economic stimulant and an outlet for creativity as well as inspiring others, Clark said.

“This is a great honor for not only (Clark) but for our city. To have the Unexpected recognized at the state level is truly an honor,” said Talicia Richardson, executive director of 64.6 Downtown, the non-profit founded in 2015 by Clark that produces The Unexpected. “The impact of the Unexpected and 64.6 is not only in our city, region and state. It goes beyond the borders of Arkansas. It is a true testament of what one person’s vision can morph into.”

Steve Clark, the CEO of Fort Smith-based Propak and founder of The Unexpected Project, addresses the audience at Saturday’s (July 22) opening event of The Unexpected Project.

Clark said he is not completely surprised by the popularity and success of The Unexpected, giving credit to all those who helped to start and grow it, including John McIntosh, former executive director of 64.6 Downtown, and Claire Kolberg, co-founder of The Unexpected.

“I was optimistic at the start but couldn’t be sure of the outcome until the people spoke their mind,” Clark said. “I’m not surprised. The power of art is undeniable. People are created to embrace art, the design, order and beauty of it. I think that is exactly what happened here.”

Though he would not elaborate on any upcoming events, Clark said there are still plenty of big plans for Fort Smith.

“Success breeds success. There is excitement around it. The donor base and corporate sponsors are excited. We will do this as long as it benefits the area and as long as people respond to it,” he said.

The annual Governor’s Arts Awards program recognizes individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas. Recipients are nominated by the public, then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals.

Other award recipients include:

· Arts in Education Award – The Center for Children and Youth
· Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award – Murphy USA
· Folklife Award – Oxford American
· Individual Artist Award – Marjorie Williams-Smith
· Judges Recognition Award – Anthony Tidwell
· Patron Award – James H Faulkner and Joyce Faulkner
· Lifetime Achievement Award – Billie Jo Starr

All of the awardees will be recognized at an event in Spring 2019 at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

Clark and his team were recognized for their work in 2017 when The Unexpected received the Henry Award for Community Tourism, an honor given by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.