Texas wall mural

Frank Campagna Paints the Town

Local legend makes Deep Ellum his canvas

Texas wall mural
A little color by an unknown artist to keep you from feeling blue

There’s lots on tap in Deep Ellum, the location for this year’s State of Search. Quite literally, in fact — Deep Ellum Brewing Company is creating award-winning craft beers, and an ever-growing number of music venues and cocktail clubs are happy to pour you a cold one. There’s music galore, great food, tech and coworking spaces…

…and lots and lots of art.

The father of Deep Ellum mural art

Deep Ellum is covered with murals from a whole host of artists. But the defining presence in the scene is doubtless Frank Campagna. The Dallas Observer called him “the unofficial father of mural art in Deep Ellum,” and they weren’t wrong. Back in the 80s, his Studio D hosted semi-legal music gatherings featuring the likes of The Dead Kennedys and Hüsker Dü. His current studio, the Kettle Art Gallery, has weathered all the storms of boom and bust in the neighborhood. And he has painted and repainted the walls of Deep Ellum literally hundreds of times.

If you have a favorite of his pieces, it’s best to photograph it quickly. He’s too restless to rest on his laurels, although the Dallas musicians’ portraits near his gallery (and legendary eatery Deep Sushi) are sticking around.

Mural of Erykah Badu
Campagna’s portrait of Erykah Badu captures her haunting eyes

When Dallas’ own “deep night” coffee house Cafe Brazil opened their Deep Ellum location, they picked Campagna to paint their building. The tropical plants and celestial mugs stayed in place for 20 years, receiving a facelift just last year by the man himself. How’s that for longevity?

Cafe Brazil Murals
Feast your eyes and your belly on the Cafe Brazil mural in Deep Ellum

Then there’s the late, lamented Gypsy Tea Room, music venue extraordinaire. Anyone who was anyone played the Tea Room. The Roots. Nada Surf. Sonic Youth. Andrew Eldritch. The Decemberists. Dinosaur Jr. The list goes on and on. And week after week, year after year, Campagna put their faces and album covers on the wall outside, an ever-changing saint’s row of musical idols calling in the faithful.

The Tea Room is gone, now, but not Frank.

Even more than being an artist, Campagna is the heart and soul of a loud, brash, brilliant community like no other. DFWSEM is thrilled to be bringing a little of that rock and roll to State of Search.

Stephanie_StuderStephanie Studer is a writer, editor, cook, and massive nerd who calls Dallas home. A social and content marketer, she’s deeply in love with all that language can do. She blogs at storytellingforsuccess.wordpress.com, tweets at @Editrix_Steph, and posts entirely too many pictures of dishes she’s made on Instagram. Don’t ask her about ukuleles or comic books unless you have nothing to do for the next several hours.