PUBLIC ART IN NWA: REVIVING THE ORDINARY!
Northwest Arkansas is on the verge of something big as a new urban street art movement takes hold in cities across the region! Outdoor murals, art on storm drains, utility boxes and overpasses, and giant art installations in unexpected places are transforming the day-to-day experience in our distinctive cities into something vibrant, adventurous and new.
The city of Fayetteville dove head first into the public art scene this summer with its Green Candy Art Action initiative. Already known as an arts incubator city, Fayetteville partnered with global creative house JUSTKIDS to recruit artists to create a collection of street art that would engage the community and initiate conversations about waste and sustainability. A few of the new awe-inspiring Green Candy public artworks include:
- Eclipse, a mural by Argentinian artist Marina Zumi, at Hog Haus Brewery, on West Avenue just off Dickson Street
- Bear-ly Legal, a mural by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, just off the historic downtown square, on the corner of East Avenue and Mountain Street
- Deer, Half Deer, a multimedia sculpture by Portugal-based artist Bordalo, at the historic Walker-Stone House, on Center Street
- Fayetteberry, an oversized crochet piece by Eureka Springs artist Gina Gallina at the entrance of the Experience Fayetteville office on the downtown square
- Fresh Air, a mural by Fayetteville artist Jason Jones, just off Center Street, along the Razorback Regional Greenway bike and walking trail
To the east of the square, on College Avenue at the corner of Center Street, The Owl by Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz towers nearly 50 feet high. Created as part of The Unexpected, a street art initiative based in Fort Smith, this mural was also curated by the JUSTKIDS team.
Pigshibition, a community art project founded by the Ozark Literacy Council and the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, truly captures the team spirt for the Arkansas Razorbacks that thrives in Fayetteville. Pigshibition is comprised of 25 six-foot-tall, painted pig statutes located around the city, each styled by a local artist with a theme of their choice. You can find these funky pigs all around town outside restaurants, on the downtown square, in front of the Clinton House Museum and other places.
Take the Razorback Regional Greenway to the Tsa La Gi Trail in south Fayetteville to find the overpass mural Holding On and Letting Go: The Struggles and Strength of the Tsa La Gi. City officialssaw the blank slate of the overpass as a canvas and wanted to fill the space with a piece that would represent the journey of the Cherokee people along the nearby Trail of Tears. Proposals were accepted and local artist Stacy Bates was ultimately chosen. The Tsa La Gi Trail marks the site of a forced relocation route where in 1839 a group of Cherokee people formed a detachment camp. The trail is named in remembrance of the tribe.
Of course, don’t miss the variety of public art pieces including beautiful bronze sculptures, fountains and more that are peppered throughout the University of Arkansas campus. One highlight of the collection is Courage to Lead, a bronze sculpture by Native American artist Denny Haskew.
A thriving new neighborhood in northwest Fayetteville is also quickly garnering the attention of art lovers with its award-winning urban design and unique community atmosphere… Uptown Fayetteville as the area is now known features striking public art created by a diverse set of artists, including Uptown Quilt, a mural by local artist and sign painter Olivia Trimble. Trimble’s The Quilt Square Project symbolizes hard work and comfort, and includes an installation in the neighboring city of Springdale.
As you arrive in the cultural haven that is the city of Bentonville, home to the world-class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, it is nearly impossible to miss Big Blue, a giant mural of a big blue octopus painted on the side of the Rapid Prototypes building on Walton Boulevard. Artist Jason Jones applied his immense talent and vision to the concrete walls of this local business, creating a sense of whimsy and surprise that has fast become a local favorite.
Sunkissed by Nathan Pierce is a funky, geometric sculpture on the North Bentonville Trail. Located at the Y of a trail’s intersection, the bright bursting lines of Pierce’s sculpture emulate spokes rolling along intersecting trails, and make a vibrant splash clearly visible from North Walton Avenue. This sculpture acts as a striking landmark for users of the North Trail System.
Located at Memorial Park, Monarch & Dandelion is an upcycled sculpture produced by Denver-based artist and Arkansas native Amanda Willshire. The piece was built using repurposed bike parts. Old bike wheels seem to make up the perfect geometry of a dandelion, on which a butterfly etched in bike spokes is perched. This piece underscores that the possibilities of repurposing old materials are endless!
Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is not only home to a collection of American art masterworks, but also to a system of trails that are a sanctuary of art and nature. Dotting the Crystal Bridges trails are nearly two-dozen outdoor public art installations that ignite the imagination and tempt visitors to find more.
Some of the most prominent include artist Leo Villareal’s Buckyball, an aluminum sculpture that becomes illuminated with colorful LED lights at dusk, which can be seen upon entering the museum grounds. Three People on Four Benches by George Segal is a sculpture composed of three bronze figures sitting upon aluminum benches, located on the Art Trail near the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright house. The newest additions include R. Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, a huge geodesic Fiberglass-reinforced polyester structure inspired by a fly’s eye located on the museum’s north lawn; and Fiori Boat by artist Dale Chihuly, an installation of many small and wildly colorful glass sculptures located on the North Forest Trail – part of a larger exhibition, Chihuly: In the Forest, which showcases the master artist’s glass and neon works. Fiori Boat will remain on the museum grounds once the Chihuly exhibition closes on Nov. 27.
Open from sunrise to sunset, the Crystal Bridges trails are gorgeous, and free for the public to explore!
The peaceful quality of life in Siloam Springs is undeniable with one short walk around the city’s beautiful historic downtown area.
Artist Jason Jones, in conjunction with the 2016 Homegrown Festival, painted a series of animal murals that take meaning from the city’s harmonic connection to nature. The Sager Creek Animal Series includes paintings of an Otter, a Blue Herron, and Doug the Deer that are relatively small, placed around the downtown area in places that are a little off the beaten path. One may have to really look to find them, much like you would look for the real animals that make their homes around Sager Creek and downtown.
One painting in the series has a truly special meaning to the people of Siloam. Last year, a tame deer began approaching trail users along the Dogwood Springs Trail system near the John Brown University campus, just as a dog might, so he was affectionately nicknamed Doug the Deer by the runners and cyclists who encountered him. Unfortunately, state game officials felt that the deer could become a threat, so he was removed. Jones included a painting of Doug in the series in his honor, so that he would remain a part of the community. You can find the Doug the Dear mural on the side of the Ability Tree building on Maxwell and East Main Street.
Also in Siloam Springs, free “little libraries” that double as eye-catching, arrow-inspired geometric art installations called Librarrows have been designed by Dayton Castleman, a local artist and curator at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. Installed recently, Librarrows are located in Twin Springs Park and in City Park, strategically placed so that people can grab a book and stay and read if desired.
Springs is a sculpture installation by Joel Armstrong, an artist and professor at John Brown University, which as you might have guessed, is aptly named in celebration of the many natural springs found in Siloam. The design of the sculpture represents summer storms sending rushing water flowing through natural rocks. It’s located on the grounds of the Arvest Bank building at University and Mount Olive Street.
The Postcard Mural was the first public art mural that Main Street Siloam Springs commissioned. Painted by Kirk Demarais, the mural has the nostalgic design of a vintage postcard and can be found at Broadway and East Main Street. Head over and snap a photo!
When visiting the city of Rogers, you get to experience the best of small town charm along with fresh, new public art. There’s artworks to be discovered along the streets downtown, from historic sites to well-worn bike trails and everywhere in between. Here are some of the popular works of street art to check out while in town:
- The Bleu Girl, a mural by artist William Wallace, can be found on the west side of Urban Bleu Salon at 113 W. Elm St.
- Boldly painted wood panels by artist Steve Adair are located on the west side of the old Benchmark Building/old Elks Lodge that currently houses a makerspace called the Rogers Experimental House
- A retro Coca Cola Mural lives on the east side of the Avenue Design Building at Second Street and Walnut Avenue
- Sunburst, a mural on the north side of the historic Opera House at First and Walnut streets was painted by Missy Kaza
- A custom mural now resides on the side of the rail car at The Railyard Bike Park. World-renowned artist Lucas Aoki completed the mural just in time for the International Mountain Biking Association World Summit that held events at the park in the fall of 2016
- A mural of a cruiser bicycle toting a basket of flowers is located on the south side of the peach-colored building at Walnut and Arkansas streets
Public art doesn’t have to be only one-dimensional! We have seen multi-dimensional pieces in other cities, and that doesn’t stop in Rogers. A quirky metal installation lives in a tree downtown called Lightning Bugs. The artist, Tom Flynn, uses found metal objects to create his original pieces. This installation is located on First Street near Parkside Public restaurant and is made of old argon and CO2 containers along with salvaged fragments of reinforcing bar.
NWA artist Olivia Trimble makes her mark in Springdale with her personal art initiative The Quilt Square Project. Trimble researches traditional Ozark quilt patterns, adds a contemporary color palette, and paints it onto an 8-foot by 8-foot square. You can find one of these art installations on the Shiloh Meeting Hall grounds off Huntsville Avenue near downtown.
A five-story-tall mural of a Monarch butterfly graces the Springdale Municipal Airport’s control tower as part of the Migrating Mural Project. Founded by Ink Dwell art studio in 2012, the project aims to beautify local environments while driving education toward conservation efforts to help certain species and ecosystems that are currently under threat.
You won’t have to look hard in Eureka Springs to find art. The city has been an arts village and cultural destination since the turn of the century, and once you’ve entered this quaint, craft haven, you’re immersed in it! There are more than 150 public art pieces peppered throughout the city, which is home to more than 400 talented working artists.
Juxtaposed against the city’s historic Victorian architecture is an assortment of public art works, including these quirky, original installations:
- Humpty Dumpty, a sculpture that watches passersby from a terrace on Main Street
- The mystical sculpture The Goddess that overlooks Basin Park in the heart of downtown
- The Up, a painted staircase on North Main Street just beneath the sky deck at DeVito’s restaurant
- Experience all four seasons in the same moment in time with the Four Seasons – enormous mobiles made of powder-coated steel and copper that are suspended from the trees in Basin Park. This installation was created as part of the city’s annual May Festival of the Arts, a month-long celebration with more than 75 art showings, performances and events.
- The Archer, a sculpture you can’t miss on the upper loop of Spring Street near the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel
- The Louis Freund Mural, painted on the outside of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum
Eureka Springs is also home to the only music sculpture park of its kind in the United States. Located at the North Main parking lot and city park, Music Park gives visitors an interactive sound sculpture experience in a natural Ozark acoustical setting. Visitors create music with a 20-foot chime arbor, percussion sculptures paying homage to Stonehenge, a xylophone-like structure and more – all of which can be played by hand or with soft mallets provided at the park.
Holiday Island, located north of Eureka Springs and along Table Rock Lake, has a unique take on public art that underscores the city’s relaxing environment. As visitors drive through town, they’re greeted by a series of tree carvings of animals that are native to Arkansas.
The carvings started appearing on Holiday Island in 2013 after a bad storm came through and damaged many of the trees. Keeping in mind the town already held a designation as a “Tree City, USA” community, city leaders pondered a way to preserve some of the damaged trees while simultaneously enhancing the natural beauty.
In a novel idea, the Holiday Island Hospitality Association partnered with a local chainsaw wood carver to create the first work of art carved into a large tree trunk – an eagle standing sentry over the island. It can be seen just after crossing the bridge over the Leatherwood Creek tributary to Table Rock Lake as you enter town on Shields Drive. Carver Jason Morton’s work was so popular with residents and visitors that the Hospitality Association decided to add more!
Now visitors can find these unique carvings including a fox, two raccoons, a hawk and more throughout Holiday Island, on its golf courses and in residential areas surrounding the lake – all of which are easily viewed from public streets. Visitors are encouraged to drive around the community and visit all of them!
NWA’s public art hotspots are growing in size and number practically by the week. We invite you to check out these amazing works on foot, by bike or by car and pair the experience with local music, our dynamic downtowns or our parks, trails and green spaces. You won’t leave disappointed!
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