An artist transformed an abandoned house in Arkansas into a ‘Rainbow Embassy,’ and the neighborhood loves it

The Rainbow Embassy.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids
  • Okuda San Miguel spent nearly a week painting an abandoned home as part of a project to revitalize neighborhoods in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
  • Justkids, a group that helps create public art for a local non profit, invites artists from across the globe to Fort Smith.
  • The brightly colored house, which is known as the Rainbow Embassy, stands apart from the rest of the neighborhood.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you’re passing through Fort Smith, Arkansas, you won’t be able to miss the Rainbow Embassy.

With brightly colored stripes, stars, and even a giant dog face, the house is pulled from the imagination of Madrid-based artist Okuda San Miguel.

Through a local initiative, Fort Smith has become a cultural center for artists like San Miguel to work on their projects, help revitalize the neighborhoods, and brighten up people’s days.


The Rainbow Embassy is located in Fort Smith, a small town in Arkansas on the border of Oklahoma.

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Location of Fort Smith.
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Map

In 2015, a group of art curators, Justkids, and local non-profit 64.6 Downtown started The Unexpected, an initiative where they invite artists from across the globe to Fort Smith to work on projects.


An abandoned house in the town was selected for the art project.

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The abandoned house that became the Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

“What is great is we tried to use a building that was abandoned,” said Justkids founder and curator Charlotte Dutoit. “People passing through everyday forgot about this building, so it was a way to rediscover their own city, their own building, by inviting this internationally known artist to create.”


Justkids and 64.6 Downtown commissioned Madrid-based artist Okuda San Miguel for the project.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

San Miguel previously worked with Justkids in 2016 on Fort Smith’s Universal Chapel, a Catholic chapel that he painted a variety of colors.

The chapel was demolished when the city decided to build a park in the area, which Dutoit said was good for economic development but unfortunate for the project.

“We really wanted him to still have an art work in Fort Smith, and he immediately said yes,” she said.


Once it was approved, San Miguel spent less than a week last year transforming the house from start to finish.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

San Miguel said he doesn’t plan his designs beforehand, preferring to sketch them straight onto the house.


He wanted to introduce color into the neighborhood after noticing all the surrounding houses were white.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

“When the architecture is kind of strange, it’s not flat, I prefer to take a different way, more abstract,” San Miguel said. “I take out different patterns from the past and from the people and different flags, different icons like the stars, dots. I try to mix everything and at the end I do like a collage of invented flags. That’s why it is the Rainbow Embassy.”


When he finished the Rainbow Embassy, it filled San Miguel with joy.

The Rainbow Embassy.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
source
Justkids

“When I finish, I feel super good because I love to cover whole architecture,” San Miguel said.


So far, the people of Fort Smith agree with San Miguel. They love the brightly designed house.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

San Miguel said when he finished, the son of the woman who had once lived in the house approached him and told San Miguel he loved the colors.

“It was super special for me,” San Miguel said.

San Miguel said someone also messaged him asking about buying the house.


Justkids has created more than 50 art projects for The Unexpected in Fort Smith.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

For Dutoit, the question isn’t why Fort Smith, but why not Fort Smith?

“It’s significant to invite [high quality] artists like this because usually projects like [The Unexpected] are in the big cities,” Dutoit said. “It’s quite unexpected when you hear an artist says, ‘I did this project in LA and in New York and this one in Miami and this one in Fort Smith.'”


For San Miguel, the message behind the Rainbow Embassy is one of equality and shared experiences.

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The Rainbow Embassy.
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Justkids

“I would like the people to feel something different depending on the experiences of their lives, but of course, it’s important that they feel something,” San Miguel said. “All cultures, all flags are the same, just colors. The humans are the same.”