Muralists travel to Arkansas to transform downtown Fort Smith

A mural on the side of a Fort Smith building. Image courtesy of FortSmith.org

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) – Whether they’re homegrown or from the other side of the world, the muralists participating in The Unexpected this year are excited to bring their art to the streets of Fort Smith.

Acclaimed muralists from all over the world each year travel to Fort Smith during The Unexpected to beautify the outsides of buildings in the downtown area. Though they greatly differ from each other in style, this year’s muralists are enjoying changing the appearance of the town.

“The murals are helping to bring parts of this place back to life and to bring something good to the town,” said muralist Alex “Pref” Geoffrey of London, England.

Geoffrey, one of two Unexpected muralists from Europe, is painting his mural on the north side of a building in the southwest corner of Towson Avenue and North C Street. Geoffrey said his decision to accept the invitation to The Unexpected was “a no-brainer.”

“I had seen some of the murals that had happened in previous years,” he said. “With some of them, I didn’t even know they were at this event until I got here.”

When finished, Geoffrey’s mural will depict three-dimensional block letters that spell out “the very best is yet to come” in a flowing banner. Geoffrey said he got the idea for the mural because of the mission of The Unexpected to revive Fort Smith, the Southwest Times Record reported.

Geoffrey is also using the color blue and the flowing pattern in his mural to pay homage to the Arkansas River, he said.

“A lot of towns settle along rivers and along coastlines, because historically, that’s where goods and things are transported to and from. It’s the connection to the outside world. In the past, the river has brought wealth and projects,” he said. “Just like the Arkansas River has brought this place prosperity in the past, this river is going to bring prosperity in the future.”

Diogo “Add Fuel” Machado – the other muralist from Europe in the festival lineup – is painting an interpretation of Native American art on several consecutive storefronts in the 200 block of Towson Avenue, just a short walk from Geoffrey. Though he mostly paints in Europe, Machado said he had heard of The Unexpected before he was invited.

Mural portraits on a Fort Smith, Arkansas, grain elevator. Image courtesy of FortSmith.org

“I follow what’s going on in the street art world, and it’s such an interesting festival,” Machado said.

Machado decided to paint an adaptation of Native American art, he said, because it pays homage to the area he’s working in. He is incorporating three Native American patterns into his mural.

The finished mural will also have “rips” depicted in it, giving the appearance of torn layers of paper, Machado said.

“I’m hoping, somehow, people can connect to it,” he said.

On the other side of Towson, a local artist – Nate “Buffalo” Meyers of Fort Smith – is painting a mural on the north wall of the Habitat For Humanity ReStore building. Meyers, who has painted murals in Denver and Memphis, said he has worked in The Unexpected in different capacities since 2016 but got his own wall this year.

“It’s weird how this stuff kind of snowballs,” Meyers said. “You do one, and then people hit you up and want you to do more.”

Meyers’ mural largely relies on squares to drive its design. He said his geometric approach was inspired by artist Frank Stella.

Meyers also said the theme of the mural ties into the mission of Habitat for Humanity, if one considers its ancient origins.

“For the Sumerians, the grid is the basis of everything being built off of. This work is mostly constructionist versus a composition,” he said. “I guess there’s a relationship there with house building.”

Ultimately, the muralists hope their work brings life to Fort Smith.

“The artists are also sort of like architects,” Machado said. “They change the scenery of the public space.”

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By MAX BRYAN, Southwest Times Record

Information from: Southwest Times Recordhttp://www.swtimes.com/

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AP-WF-11-03-18 1635GMT