Art has been an expression of emotions for as long as humans have existed. While the basic design can be simple or complex, it is what we see beyond the obvious that touches our souls. More and more cities are seeing how urban art projects can help residents and visitors connect with the essence of a destination. Fort Smith, Arkansas is in the midst of a downtown revitalization plan that includes adding plenty of urban art. As we explored their historic downtown, we kept our eyes peeled for some of these images. With over 30 murals, by various artists, we see how this city is making connecting through art a priority.
Wild West Vibe
Fort Smith was born on the edge of the Wild West. It seems fitting that some of their urban art projects would fall into this theme. These two murals were on our favorites list with crisp colors and stylish designs. While each mural can look simplistic at first glance, we found that they hold clues to more profound meaning. It’s the hidden messages that can be different for every person who views them. That is one of the best things about connecting through art.
Honoring the Native People
Sitting on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma means that Fort Smith has a long history with the indigenous people. When the Five Civilized Tribes were forced on reservations, it was the US Deputy Marshals from this city that helped remove villains from Oklahoma Territory. To honor this long-standing relationship one of the artists met with the Cherokee nation to develop this mural. It represents Cherokee women and we found that the strength of their spirits really permeates the piece.
Toss in some Macabre
Like most art, there is always a lot left to interpretation. As we explored along the side streets of downtown Fort Smith, we found there are lots of hidden murals scattered throughout the area. Some we enjoyed in passing, as their simplistic design made an instant impact. Others were a little darker and required examination to see what we felt was the hidden meaning. With muted colors, these pieces provided plenty for the viewer to absorb. The absence of the true definition meant that we could paint our own picture of the essence of the painting.
Art in Other Places
Murals are certainly attention grabbers but don’t represent all of the potential art forms in urban settings. In fact, our visit to a local farmers’ market reminded us that art comes in various styles. Strolling through the aisles, we spotted some local artists displaying their latest creations. Once again we were awash with curiosity about their production. These types of gatherings allow plenty of interaction for the public. This meant we could get a little more insight into their creativity. Listening to an artist describe their works really lets their passion come through.
Not all art is permanent. Some artists work in a more temporary medium. Have you ever thought baked goods are a form of art? While it seems an odd belief, it makes sense. The creator pours their passion into each piece. While the finished item may not have an underlying meaning, it often has layers of flavors. By developing a recipe that incorporates these layers, in a complementary fashion, they are creating a masterpiece of tastes. We are always looking for ways to support local artists, so purchasing a few of these goodies was a must.
Keeping Our Eyes Peeled
Back on the streets, we continued our exploration. Each mural that we spotted became another victory. Before long, we realized it wasn’t just the murals that make up the art scene in downtown Fort Smith. Many businesses have found unique ways to incorporate art into their street presence. This boosts the artistry of the area and entices people to take a closer look.
Connecting Through Art
It’s interesting how changing world events can impact our thoughts about art. When this piece was created, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not even a consideration. By the time we visited Fort Smith, it had become a reality that was dominating the headlines. When we discovered that the mural was created by two artists, one being from Ukraine, it piqued our interest. The meanings behind the art had been established in the past, but for us, they were created at the time of viewing. It’s this evolving aspect of art that makes it special to the viewer. We had plenty to think about as we continued exploring. Do you enjoy seeing urban art during your travels?