A key step in promoting the upstart Spring Creek Arts Association and its first annual arts festival was celebrated Monday afternoon as business and community leaders and art fans gathered at the Jones Center in Springdale to recognize the colorful completion of a 102-foot-wide by 22-foot-tall mural.
The mural, designed and painted by Irish artist Maser, is on the east side of the Youth Strategies building at the Jones Center. Maser was commissioned to help students paint the large mural, which can easily be seen from Emma Street. Maser also conducted a workshop for students at Parsons Elementary in Springdale.
In addition to using forms and graphic patterns, the Maser mural incorporates the word, “Support.”
The Spring Creek Arts Association is newly formed, with board members hailing from various parts of Northwest Arkansas and from Fort Smith.
“The association stands for inclusion and the power that comes with embracing diversity while encouraging the arts to flourish in the minds and hearts of children,” notes association literature.
Mike Gilbert, chief operations officer of the Jones Trust, has said the festival’s primary goal is to “celebrate student art” across a wide region from Northwest Arkansas to the Fort Smith regions.
“From Fort Smith to Eureka Springs to Bentonville, it’s important to us” to get as many students as possible interested in art, Gilbert said.
The Spring Creek Arts Festival, to be held Oct. 23-26 at the Jones Center, is accepting submissions from students in kindergarten through college. Gilbert said Monday the entry deadline has been extended to Oct. 10. Art submissions will be accepted in four categories: digital film and video, photography, live performance, and art.
The Youth Strategies operation at the Jones Center works with students from the alternative learning program at the Springdale Public School District. Landscaping, bicycle repair, and garden work are part of the jobs at Youth Strategies. During the summer of 2013, Youth Strategies employed 32 students, paid out $24,850 in stipends, provided more than 5,400 hours of on-the-job training, and delivered more than 640 hours of community service.
Maser, who is commission for special art projects around the world, said the Springdale effort was the first time he worked so closely with children. While that was initially a concern, Maser said “it has been good.”
“It has been an education, right, for the kids,” Maser said with a heavy Irish accent. “This is leading through example. ... The practical hands-on work is also a way to learn.”
Continuing, Maser noted that art classes may teach the process, but being in the field teaches the physical aspect of art.
“Out here, with this, they get that you may have to work 10 hours a day or more,” Maser said.
Maser also said project completion required help from several people and groups.
“It’s all about teamwork, really. ... There’s a lesson there,” Maser said.
Dr. Angela LaPorte, an assistant professor of art education for the University of Arkansas, said during Monday’s ceremony that the “valuable work of art education is in the process.” She said art education provides several valuable lessons to students, with those including self-confidence, an improved ability to analyze the world around them and a chance to “share wisdom” and culture with people from different generations.
Paige Ray, with the Jones Center, said Maser’s “support” message in the mural has a dual meaning.
“It speaks to both what Maser is doing with his art and what the community is doing” to support art education for children, Ray said.
Steve Clark, a businessman with operations in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith area, said Maser’s mural is not just about colors on a wall.
“When you begin to see an emphasis on art like this in a community, it can’t help but add a richness that brings great talent and great conversation, and a discussion of what could be,” said Clark, who helped support Maser’s involvement with the mural project.
Maser leaves Springdale to work two weeks on an art project in Madison, Wisc. After that, he travels to Chicago to work with spoken-word artist Malcolm London.