By Nick Brothers
What started as a bunch of locals who wanted to organize an art gallery party that featured all local art, music and literature (and alcohol) has since become a full-fledged 501c Nonprofit organization. For 10 years the Northwest Arkansas art collective Art Amiss has been documenting the area’s art scene and providing lesser-known musicians, designers, photographers, performers and artists with a boost of exposure.
The completely volunteer organization is composed of five board members who are interested in working in conjunction with artists all over the state to increase the artistic awareness in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.
“We do it because we want to make a contribution of our time and talent to the arts scene,” said Eric Jensen, Art Amiss music director. “We contribute what we’re passionate about.”
Above all, the organization seeks to inspire artistic endeavors in others, said Bo Counts, Art Amiss president.
“This year we want to strive toward quality over quantity,” he said. “We plan on focusing on putting out really well produced stuff, and fill the niche of representing the underrepresented. And we’re saying thank you to everyone.”
Art Amiss became a 501c non-profit about three years ago, which means the organization is tax exempt. The art collective operates completely on donations and fundraisers, and all of the money made at events goes back into promoting future events and the artists’ wallets. Sometimes this means taking losses, such as the visual arts showcase that happened last week, where they came up about $600 short for the expenses to put on the event.
Additionally, Art Amiss provides local artists with grant funding to pursue projects. Local singer-songwriter Candy Lee was the most recent recipient of an Art Amiss music grant of $300 to help with album recording and production costs. The grants are decided on from artist proposals and are taken to a vote by the board members.
Representing the Underrepresented
This year, Art Amiss compiled its 15th compilation album featuring 24 songs from 24 different indie rock/pop, electronica, punk, thrash and metal bands in the Ozarks. The album was released on 100 cassette tapes featuring 51 unique designs by eight local artists. For those without cassette players, the $5 purchase includes a digital download code, and buyers can opt for a print of the original artwork for $10. All 14 previous music compilations have been re-released in digital format on the Art Amiss Bandcamp page at arkansas-music.bandcamp.com.
In total, 196 Arkansas bands/artists and 230 songs have been featured in compilations. At events, 39 bands/artists have performed live at Art Amiss events, according to Art Amiss records.
The “Art Amiss 15” cassettes were unveiled at an album release event at Smoke and Barrel Tavern July 19. Local bands Dividend, Doctor Nod and monsterheart — all of whom were featured on the album — played throughout the night.
“I was told that one person, when they bought the cassette (at the first album release event), turned to their friend and said, ‘How do you play this?’” Jensen said. “The guys were in their late teens, early 20’s — it’s like ‘Well, ask your mom and dad. They probably know.’”
At part two of the album release party at JR’s Lightbulb Club on Saturday, Aug. 2, local bands SHOOK YANG, Dead Indian and Auric will perform.
Some of the other artists on the compilation include SW/MM/NG, May the Peace of the Sea Be With You, The Airplanes Vessel, Witchsister and High Lonesome. Some of the bands on the album have already had local success and show promise for more regional and national exposure, Jensen said.
“In terms of who’s taking that next step, I’d say SW/MM/NG is doing well. They recently signed with a label that will be paying for them to tour. I’d say they’re on the verge of being successful,” Jensen said. “As far as popularity based on the digital streams, a lot of them have pretty good followings. The top 3 most full listens were the tracks by High Lonesome, Teenagers, and Doctor Nod.”
Hayden Johnson, of May the Peace of the Sea Be With You, said that being a part of the compilation was a gracious nod toward the hard work of the artists in the area.
“Art Amiss has created a way for so many of these people to have their hard work rewarded by the display of their actual artwork,” Johnson said. “From the people who create the cover art to the musicians whose songs are showcased, the Art Amiss compilations are a real monument to the hardworking people of Fayetteville’s artistic community.”
At the swanky visual art gallery event last week, 16 artists showcased video, photography, paint, collage and live-action performance art at the Garden Room on Dickson street. Amongst the artwork displays were models performing living portraits and Claire Arellano of Urban Asana performed aerial acrobatics in the parking lot. Local food wasn’t able to be incorporated, but Counts said that’s something they want to try and do with future events. With Art Amiss producing the event, some artists were able to be a part of their first gallery showing.
“There was one artist there that had never shown in a gallery before, and he sold two pieces and was flipping out,” Counts said. “He never thought that would happen. He was just like, ‘Man, thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.’ It’s stuff like that, y’know…watching people really enjoy what you’re doing. Those moments are great.”
In mid-August, there will be an event (the date to be decided) to celebrate the literary portion of Art Amiss with a compilation of works from area poets and writers.
The Arts Evolution
In the 10 years Art Amiss has worked to promote the local arts scene, members say they’ve seen it evolve through upturns and downturns.
“There’s just something special about the creative spirit here in Northwest Arkansas. You can really start with your two hands,” Counts said. “With a good attitude and drive, you can actually do it. You can do anything you want to here. I tell this to people all the time, as long as you want it bad enough you can make it happen here. There’s lots of cool people here who are willing to get behind good ideas, and I like that a lot.”
Regionally, it appears the arts have been embraced. With arts venues such as the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, the Fayetteville Underground, First Thursdays, Crystal Bridges, the Univeristy’s student sUgAR gallery and the DIY scene here all contribute to the budding arts community.
“If you scale the population of some of the bigger, millions of people cities back to Northwest Arkansas’ population of, let’s say 500,000, and you look at all the stuff to do per capita — it’s almost on par with some of these bigger places,” Counts said. “There are a lot of cool things to do culture wise.”
Art Amiss 15 Release Show
Who: SHOOK YANK, Dead Indian, Auric
Where: JR’s Lightbulb Club, 19 N. Block Ave.
When: Saturday, Aug. 2 at 9 p.m.
How Much: $5