Fayetteville creates new funding stream for public art

Local artist Jason Jones recently painted a massive mural on the west wall of the Executive Square building at the Fayetteville Town Center plaza.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

A new public art program took a major step forward in Fayetteville this week.

The city’s Advertising and Promotion Commission voted unanimously on Monday to set aside $105,000 from its 2016 budget to kickstart the program, which aims to draw visitors to town and build upon Fayetteville’s reputation of supporting the arts.

It’s a project commissioners Matthew Petty and Hannah Withers mentioned several times over the past few years before the group agreed to form a subcommittee in July to begin formal discussions.

With this year’s budget on the table Monday, the group agreed to officially get the ball rolling on the new project.

Details won’t be proposed until March or April, but the gist of the plan is simple:

Instead of waiting for artists to apply for grants for public art projects, the new program will create a continuous funding stream for visual arts throughout the city, and a jurying process for selecting artists and locations for public art.

Commissioners have discussed a couple of options for jurying the work, including a possible partnership with the Fayetteville Arts Council.

Petty said Monday he’s always been a proponent of public art, but he was particularly inspired by The Unexpected Project, a week-long art festival that included the creation of 11 murals painted by international artists on various buildings in Fort Smith last fall.

While the festival was designed to help create local excitement for the redevelopment of downtown Fort Smith, the work of the seven world-renowned artists brought national and international attention to the city.

“I think that Fayetteville is at least as well poised as Fort Smith to pull off something similar,” said Petty.

Withers agreed, and said she wants the commission to be aggressive in its efforts to promote public art.

“I think we have way too much talent here and a lot of unutilized space,” Withers said. “Whether it’s downtown, uptown, east town, or west town, I want to see Fayetteville sparkle a little more.”