The Van Buren community embraces its cultural roots, with an assortment of avenues available for artists and art enthusiasts of all ages.
Van Buren residents have a multitude of opportunities when it comes to enjoying the arts.
For nearly 35 years, the Center for Art & Education (CAE) has supported the arts community in Van Buren. Located in the restored St. Michael’s Catholic Church (circa 1912), the CAE offers a number of art programs for people of all ages and abilities, including visual art classes, dance, theatre, summer art camps, integrated art programs through local schools, art competitions and more. The facility also features a 1,555-piece art library and a gallery that regularly hosts local and national artist exhibitions.
The Van Buren School District Fine Arts Center (FAC) serves as an exceptional resource both for the district’s art education department and the community at-large. The FAC presents an impressive line-up of professional entertainment events, various concerts and recitals, as well as exhibition space highlighting the work of visiting artists. See the exciting FAC schedule at www.centerforfinearts.org
Across the river, the beautiful sounds of the Fort Smith Symphony are appreciated every season at the nearby Arkansas Best Corporation Center, while theatrical productions are presented at the Fort Smith Little Theatre—the state’s oldest continuously operating community theatre.
More than a dozen sites in Van Buren are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city’s award-winning Historic District stretches six blocks along Main Street, featuring a host of charming shops, the informational River Valley Museum of History (located within the Old Frisco Depot) and the historic King Opera House. Built in 1891, the restored opera house is a local landmark that continues to host a calendar year of events.
The Drennen-Scott House is one of several historic homes listed on the National Register, once serving as the home of Van Buren’s “founding father,” John Drennen. The home was built in 1836 and was continuously occupied by family members until the University of Arkansas Fort Smith acquired the property in 2005. The structure is undergoing restoration and, upon completion, will be utilized by the university’s historical interpretation program.
Those interested in the area’s history are invited to take a self-guided Civil War driving tour through Van Buren and Fort Smith. The war proved destructive for Western Arkansas, including the communities of Van Buren and Fort Smith, notably between 1862 and 1864. The driving tour begins at the historic train depot downtown and includes sites such as the Fairview Cemetery, Logtown Hill, the Crawford County Courthouse and Riverfront Park. A brochure is available through the Van Buren Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Van Buren and Crawford County host numerous family-friendly events throughout the year, which promote community cohesion. The Annual Old Timers Day Arts & Crafts Fair is a free event featuring hundreds of exhibitors from several surrounding states. The much-anticipated Crawford County Fair is held in Mulberry each September, followed by the Van Buren Fall Festival Arts & Crafts Fair in mid-October. This event welcomes the cool autumn season with more than 200 exhibits featuring artwork, handmade items, antiques and collectibles, along with carnival rides and games. Another local fall favorite is Halloween on Main Street, an event filled with trick or treat activities enjoyed by both kids and parents.
The Christmas season is widely celebrated in Van Buren. Downtown merchants serve up delicious treats while shoppers browse through the beautifully decorated shops during November’s Main Street Christmas Open House. December kicks off with the Lighting of the Courthouse and Festival of Trees event and the ensuing annual Van Buren Christmas Parade. Patrons also take pleasure in the Living Windows Display in downtown Van Buren, which depicts the community’s rich history each December.
This is just a sampling of community happenings. Visit the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.vanburenchamber.org to access the area’s full listing of events.