Art, in its many mediums, is an incredible means of self-expression, communication, and unification. In its seven years branded as Art on the Border, the River Valley’s annual art festival has proven that talent abounds.
Originally launched as the Western Heritage Art Show in 2014, after two years, the event broke away from the confines of showcasing strictly “Western art” and became a stage for varied art styles, techniques, and mediums. By 2016, the newly rebranded Art on the Border was experiencing progressive growth, increasing its numbers from fourteen artists to sixty in 2019. Now in its sixth active year as Art on the Border, more than seventy artists will come from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and all over Arkansas to showcase their work to more than 1,200 expected eventgoers throughout the two-day festival.
Held July 21 and 22, the art show and sale will again take place at the ACHE Research Institute Health & Wellness Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas. “Art on the Border is the only event in the River Valley that offers such a vast selection of artwork for sale from regional artists while supporting local nonprofit organizations,” says Joan McCoy, event chair. “We keep it fun and interesting for shoppers to wander through three galleries in this newly renovated and impressive building that has become the premium event center in Fort Smith.”
The event kicks off Friday evening with the “Meet the Artists Show Opening” reception from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. This offers sponsors, past buyers, charity supporters, interested newcomers, invited guests, and art collectors the opportunity to meet the artists and have first dibs of purchases while they mingle and enjoy refreshments. On Saturday morning, the doors open to the public to enjoy the art and shop from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. According to Joan, 3,200 invitations were extended for the Friday evening show opening, along with a request for a $20 donation. Saturday’s event is open to the public, which is free of charge.
“We created Art on the Border to be a happy, upbeat event filled with originals and varied artwork of every media,” which, according to Joan, is exactly what makes the festival such a draw for both artists and tourists. “You’ll find oils, watercolors, pastels, fiber, hand-blown glass, jewelry, sculptures, gourds, wood turning, and so much more. And the price range is just as wide, from $10 to $2,000. It’s a shopper’s paradise; everyone can find something to love.”
After canceling the event in 2020 and 2021, last year’s revival of Art on the Border was a smashing success that the event’s committee hopes to duplicate or surpass. When asked if anything new is on the roster, Joan notes, “Last year was such a glowing accomplishment that we are keeping it pretty much the same.” What will be new, of course, are the pieces on display and the artists whose work is displayed. “Artists love to come and be part of this event,” Joan explains. “The list of artists wanting to attend continues to grow, and we love how much of a draw it has become for such incredible talent.”
While the artists benefit from the exposure, the event has a very significant benefit to the community. “By purchasing the unique art at Art on the Border, buyers are supporting the charitable organizations in the River Valley,” says Joan. Over the two-day event, Art on the Border raises much-needed funds for local charities. This year’s beneficiaries include Riverview Hope Campus, The CALL in Crawford and Sebastian Counties, Family Ministries Arkansas Children’s Homes, and the Good Samaritan Clinic.