The Unexpected has brought art downtown Fort Smith, and other cities want a piece of it.

Residents of Decatur, Ala. during The Unexpected this year approached festival leaders about using the event as a benchmark for revitalization in their town, Unexpected founder Steve Clark said. Unexpected director Claire Kolberg said festival leaders regularly receive calls and emails from people in other towns who would like to duplicate the festival in their own community.

"We’ve created a platform on which other organizations can base their model off of, so it’s a huge compliment to hear somebody say what you’re doing is done the right way, what you’re doing is very effective, and you’ve been an inspiration to us," said Kolberg.

The Unexpected, which for one week each year brings internationally acclaimed muralists to create their art in downtown Fort Smith, was initially hosted in 2015. The festival this year has several murals on Towson Avenue.

Within Arkansas, Little Rock officials in 2016 reached out to Unexpected directors to inquire about the festival, Clark said. Muralist Alexis Diaz in 2016 completed a satellite Unexpected mural in Fayetteville that became internationally acclaimed, according to a news release from The Unexpected.

"That, to me, kind of speaks to the reach of our festival, and that people are paying attention to what we’re doing," Clark said.

Decatur city planner Karen Smith said a concept like The Unexpected is something city officials would want in their downtown area. She said officials are currently working to create an art space in their downtown with the new arts college in their city.

"It’s a creative, different and exciting idea," Smith said.

"The value of art in the public space is that it gets people’s attention very quickly, the beauty and the quality of what they’re doing," Kolberg said.

Unexpected leaders have seen the fruits of the festival in recent years, Kolberg said. She said the festival has brought a new energy to the area.

"People are excited about the possibility of what rejuvenation looks like and feels like, and what their role is in that," she said.

"The original intention was to think in terms of encouraging a populous to reconsider how it views itself, to appreciate that the arts can, in fact, be an agent of economic development and change and that artists, in some regard, are the ultimate entrepreneurs. We live in an economy that depends upon entrepreneurs developing and creating," Clark said. "My hope is that seeing the creative process brings engagement and pride and encourages what we want for ourselves as a city, that it really is up to us to build the city we want to live in."

Though Kolberg spoke highly of what The Unexpected has done for Fort Smith, she said she would like to see public art in cities that use the festival as a guide be unique to their towns.

"The exciting thing is to see how each community makes something like this their own," she said.