Trail Mix Builds Northwest Arkansas Pride by Linking Arts and Nature

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Trail Mix Builds Northwest Arkansas Pride by Linking Arts and Nature

Jennifer Ross

Director of Programming, Walton Arts Center

One of the true joys of living in Northwest Arkansas is the ready access we have to the outdoors – and each other – through our extensive trail system. 

At any time of the year along the 36-mile Razorback Regional Greenway, residents can enjoy lakes, museums or brew pubs, while discovering the distinct character of each community. 

But each spring brings a bonus when the region gets its own soundtrack via Trail Mix, part of Walton Arts Center’s annual, three-week Artosphere Festival

This weekend on May 13, Trail Mix will bring together nature and the arts along the Greenway from Fayetteville to Bentonville, and again on May 14 in Fayetteville’s Walker Park. 

From bluegrass to folk-jazz to acoustic country, there is music for every taste. 

When we conceived of Trail Mix eight years ago at Walton Arts Center, we wanted to achieve an important goal: to leverage the growing trail system in a unique and sustainable way, while presenting local, regional, national and international bands to the community in an accessible manner.

Accessibility to the arts is at the core of what we do, especially during the Artosphere Festival.

Like the regional trail system or admission to Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art, Trail Mix is free. That’s intentional. Exposure to the arts need not require an expensive ticket. Nor does art need to exist within the four walls of a theater or museum. It can be appreciated in your own backyard. 

There is no formality at Trail Mix – you can come as you are. There’s no need to be quiet – you can sing, dance and clap. At Trail Mix, you don’t have to wear a suit and tie or a party dress. Art is available to everyone — in their bike shorts, sweatpants or jeans. 

Trail Mix makes the arts more accessible, and it also provides exposure to different kinds of art so that people can discover what personally moves them. 

Whenever others ask me what Trail Mix is like, I honestly feel at a loss for words. I always say, “Just wait. You have to see it for yourself.” How do you adequately explain the sights and sounds of children giggling while decorating bicycles with Celtic music playing in one corner and the Squonk Opera down the road with their giant, double-decker bike-stages with bulb-horns, banners and bagpipes? You have to be there.

Trail Mix is also an opportunity for our community members to see their trails in a different way and to connect to other areas of Northwest Arkansas. 

We started Trail Mix with one event on the trails around Lake Fayetteville. In the years since, we’ve expanded to two events. Trail Mix feels like (and is meant to feel like) a regional happening, particularly since we partnered with the spring Square 2 Square Bicycle Ride, where riders pedal from downtown Fayetteville to downtown Bentonville.

When riders realize they can bike between those cities in about three hours while enjoying music the entire way, they understand how connected they are to their neighboring communities.  

It’s not about Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville and the towns all around those four cities. It’s about our region – Northwest Arkansas. I think Trail Mix and its partnership with Square-2-Square goes a long way in helping people feel a sense of collective regional identity. 

We’re proud of Trail Mix, which has really become Artosphere’s signature family event. It was designed to be about having fun, experiencing the arts and appreciating nature and the environment with your community and family. We believe we have accomplished that – the event is enjoyed by thousands of people every year.

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