Watching the river flow. This is the sense you experience as you walk along the 200-foot sidewalk adjacent to the Central Arkansas Library System's Arkansas River Mural. The sidewalk was poured to replicate the shape of the Arkansas River from Fort Smith, Ark., to the Mississippi River. More than 100 artifacts illustrated in the project tell the story of early settlers and their relationship with the river. Meanwhile, 46 different species of indigenous aquatic life also are incorporated into the design.

Steven E. Ochs' team, which included Gerald Taylor of Images in Concrete, El Dorado, Ark., and a number of local artists, used chalk lines to simulate the current of the river at the onset of the project. Taylor then scored more than ½ mile of lines using an angle grinder fitted with a diamond blade. Then the area was cleaned and etched with organic gel acid, power washed, and primed. Four colors were applied with brushes, followed by the inclusion of the artifacts and aquatic life placed into the surface concurrent with the concrete stain. Finally, three layers of polymer were rolled on with 12 ounces of 40- to 60-grit polyresin sand for slip resistance.

Designer's Perspective

The Central Arkansas Library System's Arkansas River Mural in Little Rock, Ark., was created on a stretch of sidewalk appromixately 200 feet long that was poured accurately in the shape of the Arkansas River. As pedestrians walk along the swirls and bends of the river, they travel along the lower Arkansas River Valley from Fort Smith, Ark., to the Mississippi River.

There are 110 artifacts illustrated along the walk. Twenty-two museums across the state collaborated to select objects from their collections that tell the story of early Arkansans and their relationship to the important waterway. Each artifact was digitally photographed and printed so the artists could use them as references. All of the museums that participated were located within 50 miles of the river, and the artifacts range in age from 80 to 8000 years old.

The mural also includes 46 different species of aquatic life indigenous to various areas along the river. Dr. Henry Robison, professor of biology at Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Ark., and author of Fishes of Arkansas and Reptiles and Amphibians of Arkansas, selected the animals. The artists used photos from Dr. Robison's books, as well as several photos provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, for reference.

Usually when artists Steven E. Ochs and Gerald Taylor work in another city, they bring a crew with them, but for this project, they took the opportunity to promote decorative concrete by using local talent. With the help of Sally Williams of the Arkansas Art Council, they set up a portfolio review for artists in the Little Rock area. Eight artists were chosen based on their skills in representational painting. This dedicated team consisted of two student from Little Rock Central High School, three professional artists, and two graduate students and a professor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

To begin the project, chalk lines were drawn to simulate the river currents. Taylor then scored over half a mile of lines using a Hilti angle grinder fitted with a diamond blade. The surface was then cleaned and etched with Smith Paint's Green Clean, an organic gel acid, power washed, and primed with Smith Paint's Base Boost. Four colors were then applied with brushes using a graduated wash technique. Photographs of the artifacts and animals were placed on the sidewalk and illustrated into the surface. The walk was finished with three layers of Smith Paint's Polymer SB, rolled on with 12 ounces of 40-60 grit poly-resin sand for protection.