Fayetteville A&P partners with JustKids for Green Candy public art event

The “Owl” mural by Alexis Diaz appears on the east side of the former Mountain Inn building at College Avenue and Center Street in Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville will have more public art by the end of the summer.

The city’s Advertising and Promotion Commission today voted to enter into a contract with arts organization JustKids, the same group who curated the renowned “The Unexpected” street art festival in Fort Smith and the recent owl mural painted by Puetro Rican artist Alexis Diaz in downtown Fayetteville.

The commission last year voted to earmark $105,000 to kickstart a new public art program. That money has gone unspent due in part to the group’s transition to a new executive director.

Molly Rawn, who took over as the commission’s leader in August 2016, has since spearheaded the project after talking with JustKids about the possibility of bringing an event similar to The Unexpected to Fayetteville.

It’s an idea first floated in 2015 by commission chair Matthew Petty and then-commissioner Hannah Withers, who were inspired by the inaugural week-long festival that included the creation of 10 murals painted by international artists on various buildings in Fort Smith. The second-year event in 2016 added 10 more works, including Diaz’ in Fayetteville.

While the festival was designed to help create local excitement for the redevelopment of downtown Fort Smith, the work of the world-famous 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.

Rawn said after considering other options for organization of the project, she settled on hiring a third-party group.

“I think bringing in an outside group is absolutely the way to go,” Rawn told commissioners last month. “I am not an art curator, nor do I have connections in the global art community. That’s not why you hired me.”

JustKids is self-described as a network of curators, artists, designers and art consultants that creates international art events and gallery shows, designs conceptual spaces for high-profile clients and connect top-tier urban artists with leading global brands.

“One of the reasons I think it’s so compelling to work with JustKids…is because of their ability to earn media attention,” said Petty. “In addition to their ability to curate artists internationally is that earned media piece that helps us with our mission, which is to promote this city.”

The Fayetteville event, called Green Candy, is scheduled from Aug 17-24 in the days leading up to the Fayetteville Roots Festival.

According to Rawn, JustKids will curate the program, choose locations and contract five local and international artists to create five murals and site-specific three-dimensional installations. Each piece will touch on the subjects of recycling, conservation or sustainability, either through the materials used, the form, or the content of the work.

“Our aim is for this to elevate our art community’s already-heralded reputation to a new level,” said Dacre Whitaker, director of community engangement for Experience Fayetteville. “The Roots Festival showcases many of the elements that make Fayetteville a beloved cultural hot spot, and our art scene is certainly a major part of that. We hope this unique display of artwork gives festivalgoers, as well as guests for years to come, an even greater experience while visiting Fayetteville.”

The terms of the agreement stipulate at least two local artists be selected, and that the works be placed in highly visible, easily accessible locations.

The group will also supervise the artists while on site, coordinate the program schedule, capture photo and video to promote the event, and oversee production needs, equipment rental, supplies and team management.

The contract still needs a few minor tweaks, but should come in at around $73,000. The new artwork is expected to be completed by the end of August.