Jasmine Smith, 2014, the assistant director of alumni affairs and annual giving, had the idea that she wanted the alumni office to feel more welcoming to visiting alumni.
“I want alumni, when they come into our office, to feel like they have come home,” she said.
With the approval of Alumni Director Rick Goins, ‘07, ‘74, and Blake Rickman, vice chancellor for university advancement, Smith kicked off a wave of renovations inside the office: new colors, new carpet, new decorations.
But she didn’t stop there. Smith, inspired by the public art in downtown Fort Smith that is the legacy of the Unexpected, had an idea for a mural on the Waldron Road side of the Alumni Center at the corner of Waldron and Grand Avenue.
Bryan Alexis, associate professor of graphic design, envisioned the mural, and his students made it a reality.
In his artist statement, Alexis said he sees the Alumni Association and the lion mascot, Numa, as points of continuity that unify the university through all the transformations it has undergone.
“This mural sends a message to … students and alumni to ever advance, to keep moving forward through ever transitioning life,” Alexis wrote. “The lion image is imposing, in the center, with transitioning colors surrounding. He is regal, thoughtful, powerful, yet contemplative.”
The mural isn’t just for students and alumni. As a piece of public art on a major roadway at the edge of campus, it also speaks to the surrounding city.
“This mural stands to remind the students, alumni, and Fort Smith community that our students, past, present, and future, carry the power of the lion into every transition of life,” Alexis wrote. “If they have ever been a part of the transformative life on this campus, at any point, they will forever be a lion.”
“We are so excited to have this amazing mural to welcome not only alumni but everyone to campus and to be part of the growing art scene in Fort Smith,” said Goins. This is just the first of what I am sure will be many ways Jasmine Smith impacts the Alumni Association and UAFS. I’m so proud of her, Professor Alexis, and, most of all, our talented students.”