FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A collaboration between The University of Arkansas—Fort Smith and The Bakery District will introduce a new arts venue to the heart of downtown Fort Smith this June.

According to a press release, the District Art Galleries by UAFS will bring fine art to unconventional exhibition spaces at The Bakery, building a forum for community engagement with the arts as part of an ongoing partnership between The Bakery, the UAFS Gallery of Art & Design and the UAFS Department of Art & Design. The inaugural exhibition, “Process/Experience/Place” is being installed this week, and will feature the work of local artists Mary Elkins, Jarrod Cluck, and Owen Buffington, all of whom serve as adjunct art faculty at the university.

The exhibition will run from June 1 through September 18, with a reception celebrating the installation and the partnership to be announced soon. Viewing is free and the exhibition is open to the public during the Bakery merchants’ open hours.

“This space will be another visual art center in Fort Smith and will expand the presence of our UAFS Gallery and Department of Art & Design in the downtown area,” said Katie Waugh, chair of the Department of Art & Design. “This is a vital forum for contemporary art that I hope the UAFS and Fort Smith communities will enjoy.”

The gallery will showcase local, regional, and national artists—both emerging and established—whose work demonstrates “contemporary trends in the visual arts.” Taking place across several spaces in the district, exhibitions will be held quarterly with the intent to develop a continuous, competitive program of modern and impactful installations that truly engage the community.

According to Dr. Matthew Bailey, UAFS gallery director, the District Art Galleries will also be a training ground for UAFS students in art gallery practice.

“The training aspect is intended primarily for art students to gain art handling and gallery experience, though volunteer opportunities will be open to any interested student,” said Bailey. “Volunteers will assist with exhibition installations, and in the future, we hope to utilize this venue as part of our developing academic program in art handling and museum practice.”

“This past year, Dr. Bailey has initiated a program of hiring student workers for the Gallery.” said Waugh, noting that Bailey has hired two student gallery assistants and one intern in 2022. “These opportunities are an important extension of our students’ academic programs and working on exhibitions in this new space will expand both their academic understanding and their professional repertoire in developing exhibition spaces and overcoming design challenges.”