This Friday evening at 6 o’clock, if you see a bunch of people holding hands in a long line from Main Street in Deep Ellum to Ash Lane in Fair Park, it’s not protest or performance art. Dubbed "Hands Across Deep Ellum," it aims to bring together creative types from all walks of life, making a literal bridge of arms and hands linking Kettle Art to Ash Studio. “If you are a local artist, musician, comedian, performer of all types, or hey, a loyal fan of local art,” its press release said, “please join us on this date as we attempt to form a human link of artistic unity!”
In addition, all who participate are encouraged to bring whatever form of promotion they want. Whether it’s a CD of your music, a business card, a T-shirt or a flier, spreading the word about your artistic expression is encouraged. Think of it as a networking event that’s actually fun, without the business casual wardrobe, the awkward pitches or the cold appetizers. “We’re hoping that it will be synchronized and around 6:30, 6:45, everybody holds hands for 10 minutes and really tries hard to not block traffic,” says Veronica Young, one of the main coordinators of the event.
Young understands there is skepticism about mounting a task like this. Yes, it will be hot (the projected high is 100 degrees that day) and it will be in the final stages of afternoon rush hour, but that’s not a reason to avoid coming out. There will be plenty of water to go around from its volunteers, including Young. “It’s definitely going to be hot, but we’re from Dallas,” Young says. “We can do it. It’s not going to be long.”
Young likes to bring people together, and has a history of doing it, from comedy open mic nights to art shows. She comes from a family that promoted many mariachi bands over the years, and she makes a rather uncommon comparison to the film Blow. “My life was like Blow, and grandfather was Johnny Depp, and instead of dealing cocaine, he dealt in mariachi bands,” she says with a laugh. “He taught music for 30 years. I have a very musical family. If there was a mariachi troop going around, my grandfather probably had his hand in it.”
That heritage made a lasting impact, but it wasn’t until she found herself in Deep Ellum in her late 20s that she thought, “What can I do?” She started an online show, interviewed bands and booked gigs for them. “I promote for the love of it,” she says.
The idea for Hands Across Deep Ellum, which takes some inspiration from the 1986 charity event Hands Across America, came from conversations with local performer Decado Vega. To help promote his show at Ash Studio on Saturday, August 1, Vega and Young wanted to make a statement. Vega’s show is planned to be much more than the average release party. There will be live painting, as well as live music and DJ sets, and the debut of a documentary and videos from Vega. Vega is a very forward-thinking artist, and if you’ve seen him once, you know it’s hard to pin him to one genre.
Whether 50, 150 or 1,000 people show up to Hands Across Deep Ellum, they hope they can demonstrate how alive the arts and music scenes are, especially in spots around Deep Ellum and Fair Park that have been dormant for years. “When you really, really think about community, I can honestly say, with all my heart, coming down to Deep Ellum from the boom, to the fall, to the boom again, this is it,” Young says. “This is community. All the bands put on the shows, they communicate and they help each other out. We’re well on our way to being a spectacular town.”
Hands Across Deep Ellum is Friday, July 31, starting at Kettle Art.