Culturalist: July 2017

A month’s worth of street art, Spike Lee and seagoing vessels made of cardboard

The Unexpected in Downtown Fort Smith | July 26-30

FORT SMITH | Fort Smith has become something of a blank canvas. Every year, when The Unexpected festival rolls around, urban contemporary artists from around the world break out their brushes and change the landscape one wall at a time. But for folks who don’t particularly enjoy watching, um, paint dry, The Unexpected is partnering up with the Peacemaker Music & Arts Festival to bring acts like Gov’t Mule and Jamey Johnson to the mix. And for the bizarre minority that doesn’t find music or art appealing, the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market will be right around the corner on July 28 and 29. In other words, the place will turn into a full-blown work of art, in every sense of the word. (

Jim Gaffigan: Noble Ape Tour at First Security Amphitheatre | July 23

Little Rock | Just in case you’re not a Jim Gaffigan enthusiast, here’s a word of advice: Expect to get hungry while listening to him—that is, if Hot Pockets and doughnuts are your thing. Because if there’s anything Jim is good at it (aside from perfect comic timing), it’s portraying his relationship with food, and in that, reflecting on the entire country’s eating habits. (As he once mentioned in an interview, “I’m a big eater. I mean, a lot of my stand-up is about food, and you write about what you know, and that’s the only thing I know. I don’t know anything else.”) Back in April, Jim hit the road for his new live-comedy act dubbed the Noble Ape Tour, and this month he’ll pay a visit to Little Rock’s First Security Amphitheatre—just remember to get dinner beforehand. (

40 Acres & A Block: A Spike Lee Tribute at Ron Robinson Theater | July 13-14

LITTLE ROCK | Back in 1989, when 32-year-old Spike Lee released his third feature film, Do the Right Thing, it became a huge success practically overnight—and for good reason. The movie, which takes place in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant on the hottest day of the summer, tackled issues such as racism, gentrification and immigration, and is considered to be one of the best and most influential pieces in the history of cinema. Lucky for you, it’ll be screened this month at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater. The next day, to close out the tribute, Arkansas-native musician Rodney Block will perform music from Lee’s films. And as far as jazz artists and trumpet players go, he’s one of the finest in the state. In other words, it’s a pretty darn good (and educational) one-two punch. (

Rascal Flatts: Rhythm & Roots Tour 2017 at Walmart Amp | July 21

ROGERS | Mainstream country music is not everyone’s cup of sweet tea. But let’s face it—we’ve all used the ballad “What Hurts the Most” to drown our woes at one point or another. Orrrr maybe that’s just us. Though Rascal Flatts jump-started its career back in the early 2000s, the country-pop trio is still going strong, having released their 10th studio album, Back to Us, just a few months ago. In listening to it, the songs are just that—back to the basics, a return to the sounds and harmonies these longtime country vets are known for. Their new single, “Yours If You Want It,” already caused a stir and many thumbs up, particularly due to Gary LeVox’s crystal-clear vocals, something Arkansans will get to hear this month when the band performs in Rogers as a part of their 14th headlining concert tour. (

31st Annual World Championship Cardboard Boat Races  | July 29

HEBER SPRINGS | Before you dump those cardboard boxes into a recycling bin, just hear us out. There’s a boat race happening in Heber Springs—the kind that’ll really put your craft skills to the test. Every year for the past three decades, folks from around the state have gathered on the banks of Greers Ferry Lake in hopes that their creations will not only float, but beat the competition on the speed and design fronts, too. You’ll see all sorts of eyebrow-raising masterpieces shaped like houses and sharks that’ve been pieced together with little more than sweat, tears and love. Also, duct tape—lots and lots of duct tape. And if you’re feeling a wee bit intimidated, it’s even fun to just kick back and watch. Not to mention, the daylong event features a watermelon-eating contest. No skills required there. (