A title given to the city on Tuesday afternoon raised questions around the statement.
Ibiyinka Alao, a Nigerian artist who lived in Rogers for a short-term artist residency, announced Tuesday at an event in Fort Smith that the city qualifies to be considered a “United Nations International City for artistic innovation and growth. “
This designation is not possible, said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary General of the United Nations.
“He’s not the one who – even if he existed – he wouldn’t have the power to give it away,” Dujarric said.
Alao’s use of “ambassador for the arts” to the UN is not one Dujarric has heard of before, he said.
Alao won a United Nations international art competition in 2001 which led to him becoming an art ambassador, he said. He represented Nigeria in a competition that brought together 61 countries.
United Nations International City for Artistic and Cultural Innovation:Fort Smith declared United Nations International City for Artistic and Cultural Innovation
He was appointed art ambassador for Nigeria thanks to the victory, said Astou Fall, who works for the Nigerian mission to the United Nations.
“When I arrived in New York, the United Nations as a body asked me to be the art ambassador under the leadership of the then secretary general,” Alao said. “That’s how it happened. The price is different, but it was the price that kind of got me the job.”
Alao said he is able to give the accolades thanks to his title of Ambassador of the Arts to the UN
“With my post as an ambassador for the arts, this is something I can do while traveling,” Alao said. “… I don’t necessarily need to consult the UN or anyone else to do this.”
Alao said the requirements for the title involve an integration of the arts into the city, an emphasis on raising people’s morale and education, as well as art as part of the city’s economic fabric.
The title is a “statement,” not a “designation,” Alao said.
“I know he’s an artist,” Fall said. “To tell you the truth, this is a very good one. It is not a scam.”