On the Border and Beyond

WORDS Liesel Schmidt
IMAGES courtesy Art on the Border

Oils, pastels, acrylics, watercolors…These are just a few of the mediums in which art finds its form, taking shape on a canvas or a board or paper. Or even built from the sludge of clay under the hands and fingers of someone whose mind’s eye is guiding each touch. Regardless of what form it takes, art is a powerful form of expression, a way to communicate without words, to tell a story. It is celebrated the world over, revered in museums and galleries, coveted by collectors who want a piece of this beautiful genius. And whether from the societies of Paris or the backwoods of a rural mountain town, art knows no class. It knows only the passion of the person behind it.

For the artists of Art on the Border, the chance to showcase their art for the people of their community and from across the region is an invaluable opportunity, a chance to celebrate their work and see the impact it makes on the people viewing it. First created as the Western Heritage Art Show in 2014, two years proved that the festival needed to be more—to break out of the box of clearly defined “western art” and become a place welcoming to all of the varied and wonderful styles, techniques and mediums found within the world of art. By 2016, the festival was rebranded as Art on the Border.

At its first year, Art on the Border had a small beginning, numbering only fourteen artists. By 2019, it had grown to more than sixty, though the next two years were cancelled because of the pandemic. Now back for its fifth year, more than seventy artists will be featured at the highly anticipated return of the festival. Additionally, the event will be held at the newly renovated and spacious event center ACHE Research Institute Health & Wellness Center.

Taking place July 22 and 23, Art on the Border is a great draw to the city of Fort Smith, benefitting the local community through tourism and commerce—but there’s so much more to the story than that. “Our community benefits from exposure to the arts: beauty, purpose, stimulation,” says Joan McCoy, event chair. “By purchasing the unique artwork, jewelry, baskets, glass, sculptures and so much more, they are contributing to the support of the charitable organizations in the River Valley. We estimate that more than 1,000 people will attend the two-day event.”

Those two days of art raise much needed funds for four local charities: The Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House, The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, Art’s at Bost and The Good Samaritan Clinic. “Funds for these local charities are generated through sponsorship, donations, and sale of the artworks,” says Joan.

As they attend Art on the Border, art patrons will find a wide variety of mediums and styles to admire and purchase, including oils, pastels, acrylics, watercolor, fiber, hand-blown glass, jewelry, sculptures, gourds, digitally enhanced photographs, wood turning and baskets, and high-quality prints as well as originals. “This is a unique and wonderful opportunity to meet regional artists and see their original artwork and perhaps purchase it for your home or office,” Joan says. “Art is such an important means of expression—both for the artist as well as the viewer. It has also been found that art improves our well-being. It nourishes our approach to daily living, mobility, health, and wellness. That is why celebrating art and those who create it is so crucial. Art needs to thrive, and communities need to support their artists so that it can.”

As it has grown, so, too, has Art on the Border’s demand in artists who wish to participate. “Artists have been recruited and invited to participate in the past, but we have grown to the point that now we have a waiting list wanting to attend the event,” Joan notes. “The artists come to us from across the state of Arkansas as well as Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. They all have the opportunity to show their artwork to Fort Smith, and connections have brought them commission work and additional sales. Plus, they like us because we treat them so well. It’s just a taste of Fort Smith hospitality!”

Honorary hosts will be Susan and Sam Fiori, strong supporters of the arts and “all good things in Fort Smith,” as Joan says. The event kicks off Friday evening with the “Show Opening Meet the Artists” reception from 5pm until 9pm. This offers sponsors, past buyers, charity supporters, interested newcomers, invited guests and art collectors the opportunity to meet the artists and have their first choice of purchase while they mingle and enjoy refreshments. On Saturday morning, the doors open to the public to enjoy the art and shop from 10am to 4pm.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/artontheborder.

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