THE MENA PLAYERS: Drug runner Barry Seal's exploits at the Mena Airport have been the subject of books, articles and a Tom Cruise movie. Now the UA takes a crack at it.

The University of Arkansas announces a multi-media project of art, archival research and dance about the Mena Airport saga — its use as a transshipment point for CIA activities and drug dealing by Barry Seal and others.

Here’s the UA news release on an exhibit by artist Matty Davis and several collaborators. The title: “Until it reached into our lives and destroyed the tranquility that we had.”


The exhibit was arranged by curator Michael Maizels, assistant professor of art history in the School of Art, part of the J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

The exhibit is inspired by the events, legends, facts and myths surrounding the saga of Barry Seal, the Nella airstrip, Mena Airport and the alleged covert “drop-site” in the Ouchita National Forest. Davis and his collaborators explore the complex political events and allegations in this exhibition, centering on the land that remains.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival research, the present exhibition retraces the choreography of this network. Many of the works exhibited are made from materials extracted from sites where the hidden events took place — earth hauled from runways, water drawn from rivers, spare parts mined from the Mena Intermountain Regional Airport aviation junkyard.

The exhibition is made up of sculptures alongside texts, documents, films and performances. It will be on display through Sunday, Oct. 7.

Collaborators and contributors include filmmaker Eryka Dellenbach, NCAA athlete Austen Dalquist, builder Chris Lee, glass artist Josh Stipe, local activist Mark Swaney and the University of Arkansas Library’s Special Collections.

Events include a lecture by Matty Davis at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at Hillside auditorium; a visual art performance by Davis at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 30 at Chi Omega Theatre, and a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at the UA Fine Arts Center Gallery.

Appointments can be made with the special collections division of the library to see documents related to the exhibition.