The Unexpected

Alexis Diaz in progress, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron

It is always exciting to come across amazing street art, especially in unexpected places where they seem like a hidden gem. They help transform our urban environments and when done on a large scale, it can completely invigorate an area. It was within this context that The Unexpected came about, an urban art festival that takes place in Fort Smith. Over the course of the 10-day festival, streets artists from all corners of the world come to the town and transform public spaces. There are murals, exhibitions, residency programs, indoor-outdoor installations and video performances all centred around the highest quality urban and contemporary art.

This year the festival, now in it’s second edition, invited 10 artists to create new work alongside the pieces from last year. This year saw new pieces by Okuda, Faith47, Dface, Bordalo II, Jaz & Pastel, Alexis Diaz, Maser, Guido van Helten, and Cyrcle. The festival is curated by JustKids with support from 64.6 Downtown, a local non-profit. Here is a little taster of some of the amazing pieces from this year’s The Unexpected!

Guido van helten

Using the O.K. Foods feed mills as his canvas, Guido van Helten’s three massive murals explore the idea of ‘hero’ from the American wild west mythology. Speaking about the work, van Helten says:  “I was interested with this work to explore the idea of the American hero and character. Here represented is Ed a Native American from the Apache Tribe, Kristina a young African American woman who runs her own business and Gene Beckham a former employee who worked at this grain elevator for 70 years immediately after returning from the Second World War retiring last year.”

© Guido Van Helten, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron


Okuda ‘Universal chapel’

Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel used an abandoned building create his Universal Chapel, celebrating mankind, nature and all it’s creations. Using his signature bright colours and geometric shape, the transformed building pops out from the streets. 

Universal Chapel © Okuda, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron

D*FACE ‘Arrows’

Arrows is one of two pieces by D*Face for this year’s festival, and his third one in the town. His mural ‘War Paint’ and arrows both refer to the city’s Native American heritage. The Choctaw Nation, an Oklahoma based tribe, helped create authentic designs, as well as providing historical context.

Arrows Installation © D*Face, Photograph © Zane Cash


‘Fox’ sits alongside ‘Opossum’ as two pieces created by B0rdalo II this year. Using salvaged objects, trash and recycled materials sources from the local junkyard, B0rdalo has reused what others have chucked. His resulting sculptures are stunning. With a car as body, ‘Fox’ lays down on a patch of green. Bringing attention to our culture of waste and pollution the objects he uses to fashion his animals are sometimes the very items that threaten their existence.

Fox © B0rdalo II, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron

Faith47 ‘royal spirits’

South African artist Faith47 painted a mural of two tigers approaching, entitled ‘Royal Spirits’. Aptly names, the two creatures look majestic and powerful as they come towards the viewer.

Royal Spirits © Faith47, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron

Alexis Diaz

This pieces by Alexis Diaz was the opening piece of The Unexpected, appearing at an unexpected location in Fayetteville, a neighbouring town. The owl, with an eye embedded in it’s chest, sits silent and watchful looking out over passersby.  

© Alexis Diaz, Photograph © Raymesh Cintron