London artist to create new ‘Unexpected’ mural in downtown Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected] 1,145 views 

London muralist Ben Eine (photo courtesy of The Unexpected)

A grant from the Division of Arkansas Heritage will bring London artist Ben Eine to Fort Smith to create a mural on Garrison Avenue  as part of The Unexpected, an urban art project that began in 2015.

The mural artwork in Eine’s distinct typographic style, curated by creative house Justkids, will be located at 1000 Garrison Ave., and work will begin Oct. 16.

“Eine’s artwork will serve as a centerpiece around Mental Health Awareness. The artwork will serve a specific purpose, bringing awareness to an issue that directly affects approximately 18% of Arkansans, a percentage that trends higher than the 2018 national average of 12%,” noted a statement from Claire Kolberg, director of The Unexpected.

Born in London, Eine is one of the most recognized and successful street artists in the world and is regarded as a pioneer in the exploration of graffiti letterforms, according to The Unexpected. Eine began his career over 30 years ago leaving his tag all over London before developing his distinct typographic style, the news release said. His artwork can be found across the globe from London to Tokyo to Los Angeles. He continues to use street art to engage the public and is also a mental health advocate, continuously increasing awareness by being open about his own struggles, donating to charities surrounding suicide prevention and sharing his involvement in homelessness projects.

The Unexpected received the Division of Arkansas Heritage grant in 2019 and had planned an event in 2020. That event had to be cancelled due to gathering and travel restrictions enacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kolberg. Eine’s installation will be the last mural installation this year, Kolberg said.

“This year, we are focusing on pop-up events to really highlight a need or special engagement in the community,” she said. “We had this one scheduled for 2020 and had to postpone. We are really excited to get to do it now.”

The Unexpected hosted another art installation July 26-31 to kick off the Peacemaker Festival.
Miami-based artist Douglas Hoekzema, aka Hoxxoh, created a mural at 505 Rogers Ave. that portrays a “different way of viewing time through a means of exploring its natural fabric.”

The Unexpected art mural project has changed its timing from the fall to July and back to the fall. 64.6 Downtown — a nonprofit funded and created by Propak founder and owner Steve Clark — has organized the Unexpected since 2015. Over the years, it has featured a variety of artists.