When Frank Campagna opened Kettle Art in Deep Ellum 10 years ago, it was one of three storefronts on Elm Street. The vision was simple: a gallery dedicated to the art of local artists, no exclusive agreements required. It's been a rocky road to improvement for the neighborhood, but a decade later the gallery has become a neighborhood staple and just recently moved into a bigger space on Main Street. Every year, the fundraiser For the Love of Kettle draws huge crowds to the gallery. Before Saturday's big shindig, Campagna took a few minutes to chat with us about the gallery, Deep Ellum, and what's next for the gallery.
For the Love of Kettle in a nutshell? Originally it was just a way for the gallery to pay its sales tax every year. But we're at more than 140 works right now and all of them will be on sale Saturday, priced at $50. Well, actually in honor of our landlord Deep Ellum 42, the first 42 pieces will be sold at $42.
Do we really have to show up as early as people say? It's imperative that you get there early. No one is allowed to reserve a piece in this sale, not the artists, not the volunteers. It's just first come, first served. So we end up with a pretty long line most years. And somehow we always throw it on the coldest weekend of the year, so people will be out there freezing.
Do you have enough space for all the people at your art party? Well, it will be great this year because our new space is 2 1/2 times as big as the old gallery. In the past years, people have been squeezed into the space.
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I think the big space is proof of your success over the past 10 years, do you feel that Kettle Art has accomplished what you set out to? I've never really asked too much of the gallery. I wanted to give local artists a place to display their work and sell it without forcing them to enter any kind of exclusive agreement,and we've definitely done that. Plus, it's been able to function as a one-stop shop for designers. For example, if you came to me and requested a certain type of art, furniture, you name it, there are artists in the local community I could find for you to create it.
How do you see your impact on the local art scene? I don't want to say that I've made a bigger impact than I have, but I do think that Kettle has been a catalyst in many ways, in bringing attention to local artists. There's almost never a need to go outside of the city to bring in artists to do work when we have so much talent here. Look at the best cities in the world, Rome, Paris, they are built on their own local talent, their own identity.
To that extent, how has Deep Ellum changed in the past 10 years? It was going through a really bad time when we moved down here; it wasn't a place you wanted to be. Now there is a lot more happening down here and even a more artistic community, but it's still on its way up.
So, the next 10 years should be good for Kettle Art? It's a gallery for artists, run by an artist, so we're committed to the artists in Dallas. That's not going to change.