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U.N.: Fort Smith arts declaration has ‘hallmarks of a scam’

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , Max Bryan | July 12, 2021 at 1:56 a.m.
Artist Ibiyinka Alao shakes Fort Smith Mayor George McGill’s hand Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at a news conference at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

FORT SMITH — United Nations officials say a declaration given to the city by an artist who is ostensibly an arts ambassador for the international organization could be a scam.

Ibiyinka Alao, an artist listed on the Rogers Experimental House website as the U.N. art ambassador, declared Fort Smith a “United Nations international city for artistic and cultural innovation in peace building and economic growth” with the help of Mayor George McGill on Tuesday.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general of the U.N., said he is not aware of an “ambassador of the arts” in the organization. He also said the U.N. does not designate cities with the title given to Fort Smith on Tuesday.

“This has all the hallmarks of a scam,” said Dujarric. He said the U.N. legal team has been notified of the situation.

Alao is the Experimental House’s first guest artist in residence. He is a Nigerian-American artist, architect, writer, storyteller, film director and musical theater composer, according to the organization’s website.


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