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Statewide Arkadelphia Batesville Bentonville DeQueen Fayetteville Fort Smith Harrison Hot Springs Jonesboro Magnolia McGehee Morrilton Pine Bluff Rogers Searcy Stuttgart
Statewide Culture 0

Murals Bring to Life Arkansas Towns

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Last year, 2022, was a big year for muralists in Arkansas. As towns across the state continue revitalizing and renovating historic properties, public art becomes an important piece of the puzzle. As a result, several cities in all four corners of the state hired muralists, local artists, and painters to set apart public walls as canvases to tell their stories.

Photo used with permission from White’s Artworks.

Connecting with an artist

One artist that stands out in the Arkansas mural tapestry is Jason White with White’s Artworks. This central Arkansas-based muralist expanded his brush strokes across the state, adding art to towns like Arkadelphia, Fordyce, Batesville, Jacksonville, McGhee and Warren. White was also instrumental in establishing the Searcy Art Alley. In addition, he brings what he learned about marketing small towns to his artwork and interactions with Main Street Directors, city leaders and chamber boards.

Murals are an excellent way for communities to gather momentum for revitalization projects, including historic spaces and community cleanup. White mentions, “a mural costs much less than improvements like new lights, pocket parks or sidewalks. They can catalyze to make those other projects happen. When community members see the momentum a new mural brings, they understand the seriousness of making changes in their town.”

Sevier County, in Southwest Arkansas, has experienced just that. Artist Darlene Taylor added beauty to the dingy corners of De Queen. Restaurant parking lots, downtown alleys, historic homes, and the airport experienced a facelift, making locals and visitors stop and take pictures.

That’s the power of beautiful public art; it can turn abandoned towns into destination spots. When was the last time you stopped for a selfie at a beautiful set of butterfly wings? Or, stepped back to pause and learn the history of a town by the mural on the wall of the train depot?

Photo used with permission from White’s Artworks.

Connecting with a Story

Many towns across the state used the 2020 pandemic as a time to beautify their community. Even though art is often a luxury, many towns saw it necessary to bring unity at a secluded time. White mentioned that his isolated work setting allows him to stand in a parking lot and paint while individuals stop by with a soft drink, sit in their lawn chairs, and tell stories about their hometown while they watch him work. “You get a sense of a town when you stand in a public spot and experience the entirety of a day. I see sunsets over rice fields and watch a community wake up from the same parking lot.”

While murals don’t always make a town a destination, they sure give a great reason to stop or go out of your way to visit.

Arkansas Towns with Incredible Murals

  • De Queen’s post office boasts a historical mural dating back to 1943. But new art welcomes visitors in multiple native languages, and downtown businesses and local restaurants set destination markers for selfies and the county’s history.
  • Magnolia hosts the only mural in the world autographed by Charlton Heston. A six-part mural series depicts the history of Magnolia and Columbia county around the downtown square, with famous movie scenes always catching visitors’ attention.
  • Morrilton’s violin mural will serve as the backdrop for the Wayland Holyfield Place, a mixed-use park being constructed downtown that is named after songwriter and Morrilton native Wayland Holyfield (also writer of “Arkansas You Run Deep in Me,” the state song). Art by Jessica Jones.
  • Hot Springs’ Spa City walls are covered with murals from bike trails to former speakeasy brick walls, many adjacent to the National Park and Bathhouse Row, including headlines commemorating a historical baseball past.
  • Rogers’ mural hunt is a great family-friendly activity, with modern art, hidden images, and nostalgic nods to Frisco trains.
  • Bentonville hosts public artworks around the city and more than 72 murals in public spaces.

Photo used with permission by White’s Artworks.

  • Arkadelphia is home to White’s Artworks latest creation, a floral mural and a prismatic mascot. The town previously won a grant for a larger composition in the middle of downtown.
  • Fayetteville is a creative community, and it’s no surprise they host an annual Sprayetteville Street Art festival. Some projects add beauty to weathered walls, while others tackle cultural issues and share community history.
  • Jonesboro used murals through the Fearlessly Brilliant initiative to revitalize its downtown areas. Other stops like the Rotary Centennial Park and historic hotels are also updating their facade with new public art.
  • Pine Bluff launched a Murals on Main project in 1992 to tell the musical history of this community and significant moments in the delta region through a series of public murals.
  • Stuttgart boasts a mural, part of the Oz Art Arkansas project, by a South African artist with 17 different scenes and phrases woven together in one piece.

Social media stories, reels, and posts become great places to feature these small towns with beautiful backgrounds. Step into areas for photos and taggable moments and tell the stories of these great hometowns. Leave a message in the comments and let us know if your hometown has a great mural we need to visit!

 

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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