FORT SMITH, Ark. — Art and fishing go hand-in-hand. Don’t think so? Take a look at every lure in your tackle box. They’re each under the scrutiny of at least one artist during the course of their development. From lure designers, to painters, to the inventors themselves, everything about fishing tackle revolves around art. It’s an overlooked connection that won’t stay hidden for long—at least not at PRADCO’s Arkansas manufacturing facility. Thanks to a new project with local artist Bryan Alexis, PRADCO has put artwork centerstage with a complete transformation of a once barren factory facade.
“There is an ongoing art project in downtown Fort Smith called Unexpected Art,” says PRADCO Vice President Bruce Stanton. “Artists from all over the country come in to do paintings and wall murals on buildings downtown. It has really become a tourist attraction, and has dressed up the city. We wanted to do the same thing on our walls here at PRADCO. I started discussing with our human resources manager Mike Ledford, and he started discussing with Trent Welbern in our marketing department. Trent studied under an art professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and asked if he’d be interested in helping us. Our upper management at PRADCO and EBSCO were very supportive and allowed us to pursue.”
The result is a tremendous re-imagining of what manufacturing space can look like, and how that space can fit into a neighborhood.
Stanton says the new mural has the city of 88,000 buzzing.
“Most of our workers have received many compliments on what we’ve done from people they know,” continues Stanton. “We’ve had random people pull in the parking lot to take pictures. We are getting asked about it at church and at Walmart. It’s been something very positive for us—to beautify our building with art and to give people something pleasant to look at. We are a fishing company, and it is pretty cool to pull up and see our artsy ‘Catch On’ bass every day before we step into the building.”
The man behind the mural, artist Bryan Alexis is a graphic design, advertising and art teacher at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith with over a decade in collegiate level art experience. Stanton says when PRADCO reached out to Alexis, they were blown away by his vision and asked him to immediately begin work. Within three weeks, the mural was complete. “It was pretty cool to see the building go from a blank canvas to a colorful array of fishing inspiration,” he adds.
Stanton says his company was inspired by another Unexpected Art painting, Guido Van Helton’s 2016 “American Heroes” on the nearby O.K. Feed Mills building. Adds Stanton, “We spend so much time decorating and painting our lures; why not do the same with our building?”
Indeed, tackle manufacturers around the country should be asking the same question right now.