What to Expect: 2019 Fort Smith Arts Walk

Arts Walk Image

Since 2018, the Fort Smith Arts walk has been ‘inspiring community and art’.

“I’m hoping we can also get some more hands on technics this go around. Last arts walk we had people making pottery at the Bakery, [and] live painting at Olen and Co.… “ begins Lachelle Rolandelli, co-founder of the Arts Walk, “…We’re adding some new locations, like Brunwick on 11th street, and hoping that the Bakery District will be wrapped with construction and still be one of the main locations.”

The Arts Walk is still taking applications for one of its most vital participators: local artists. While it will be featuring some returning favorites such as Austin Anderson, Melody Smith, Toka May, Ryann Willer, Karen Marvel and more, Tyler Armstrong, another co-founder of the arts walk, urges any artist to apply. “Really just apply, show us your work that you plan to display, and – of course – be good about replying to Arts Walk messages!” says Tyler, “We would also like to highlight local artist Austin Anderson. Austin has been a huge supporter and very outspoken about local arts ever since The Arts Walk began and we’re thrilled to see the energy and passion that he is putting into the local artist community.”

The Fort Smith Arts Walk has come a long way since its inception. While an ‘arts walk’ is not a new concept – the events in NWA being a strong testament to this – the Fort Smith Arts Walk does not come without its own origin story. Tyler Armstrong states:

“The inception is not an original idea by any means. It’s a common event in many major cities. I moved here from California about 6 years ago to finish my degree and return. The returning part never happened, haha. I finished my degree in 2017 and decided to stay here. I had heard from Bill Hanna a while back that Fort Smith is a clean or blank slate and that you can make it what you want in many ways. He told me that one night when I was bartending at Core Pub while I was explaining to him my plan to return to California. It sunk in about a year later and I decided to stay in Fort Smith. With the decision to stay, I decided I wanted some comforts from home, I wanted to make Fort Smith a place that I enjoyed living in. My hometown, Riverside, CA, has a monthly Arts Walk and I’ve always loved attending it. I decided after seeing Bastion open that it was time to do something about the arts in our area and bring them to the forefront of the community.

My first step was talking to Lachelle as she was the property manager over the Bakery and had already had a few art showings in there. When I pitched the idea to her, she lit up, apparently Bill Hanna had already mentioned something to her about doing something like it. She quickly granted my request to use The Bakery District as a venue and she didn’t stop there. Lachelle could have said “cool, we’ll be in touch” and let me continue this crazy idea on my own, but she joined me as Co-Founder of The Arts Walk.

From there we had to gather venues, artists, and most importantly FUNDING. Lachelle has been a fantastic teammate and I think we balance each other out very well.

The very first Arts Walk was in June of 2018 and it was a hot day that got rain just before the event took place. It was promoted via Instagram, Facebook, and physical flyers around downtown. We weren’t sure how the turnout would be, but we ended up having somewhere between 150 and 200 guests and we were thrilled.”

Lachelle Rolandelli reiterates these challenges saying that in the beginning the low ‘hands-on-deck’ was difficult but offset by the support of the community, 64.6 Downtown and Hanna Oil and Gas.

The second Arts Walk in Late 2018 saw the addition of a free transit running the venue circuit and a new sponsor, Outfitter Roofing & Construction, LLC. : two things sure to return this year on November 16th. For all artists and art appreciators, save the date!

B. Duncan
B. Duncan

B. Duncan has a BA in Studio Art and minor in Art History from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Currently, she works as an art educator at the Center For Art and Education in Van Buren where she writes articles for their ARTalk member's magazine. Duncan also works on staff at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith gallery assistant.