Public art thriving in Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE -- Enjoy Local, the mural painted by artist Jason Jones implores visitors in the Fayetteville Town Center square. People have the chance to enjoy more local art than ever as cities increasingly make public art a priority.

Iconic focal points make for great meeting places and points of reference and are a chance to reflect regional identity, Fayetteville art commissioners said.

Fayetteville has had the longest formal artistic presence of the four largest cities in Washington and Benton counties. The Fayetteville Arts Council was established in 2007 to "encourage the planning, placement and maintenance of public displays of art within the community," according to its website.

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission established a program this year to ensure that public displays of visual art would be funded and that the selection process would be systematic. It dedicated more than $100,000 for public art in 2016.

"Prior to that, it hadn't had a funding stream for public art," said Dede Peters, community outreach coordinator for Fayetteville. "Public art depended on donations."

On occasion, Fayetteville Parks and Recreation would set aside funds for public art from its budget, Peters said. But this year is the first in which continuous funding is guaranteed.

A Fayetteville Art Walk map shows 49 places where visitors can view public art, primarily in the downtown and University of Arkansas campus areas. Public art has grown to include many benches, creatively shaped and colored bike racks, sculptures and painted traffic boxes, as well as six murals and 12 storm drains covered by Upstream Art, an organization that works to educate people about the connectivity of drains and creeks to cut down on pollution.

The peace fountain in Town Center Plaza, created by local artist Hank Kaminsky, and the 35-year-old "castle" sculptures at Wilson Park are popular because people can interact with them, Peters said.

"The most popular one is the Wilson Park Castle," Peters said. "It's just a part of your life. People get married there, birthday parties take place there and kids play there."

At the peace fountain, guests can spin the installation that has water running down its sides. The interaction cools people off during the summer and amazes them when it's frozen over in the winter, Peters said.

The fountain's maintenance and cleaning requires several thousand dollars each year and is paid for by the Fayetteville Visitors Center.

Works expected to arrive later this year include two crosswalk installations -- one in the area of Washington Elementary School and one in front of the Walton Arts Center -- and a mural along the Tsa La Gi Trail funded by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

The Bentonville Public Art Committee began in 2012. It has $70,000 to work with this year -- $20,000 from the city and $50,000 from Visit Bentonville. In previous years, the committee organized the acquisition of two sculptures -- orange spokes called SunKissed created by Nathan S. Pierce and a hiking figure dubbed PAC-Man by Craig Gray along the North Bentonville Trail.

Two prior projects were temporary installations, including Ozarks Topography, a stained glass sculpture along the North Bentonville Trail, and NuPenny's Last Stand, a vending machine-like structure filled with midcentury toys in downtown Bentonville.

Bentonville also has six Upstream art installations.

The committee called for artists earlier this summer in making plans for its next installations -- seven bicycle tunnel murals and one crosswalk -- because it's rare that artists approach the committee on their own, said Shelli Kerr, planning services manager for Bentonville.

"Because of Crystal Bridges' influence, the committee felt that we should start expanding the availability of public art in the community," Kerr said.

Metro on 07/25/2016

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