Theo Ponchaveli is the man behind that mural you’ve probably taken a photo in front of. An acclaimed artist and longtime Dallas resident, Ponchaveli has painted murals of Selena, Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali and both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald — the last of which earned him ire and applause (but mostly ire) across Dallas. But his latest show might be his most profound and ambitious project yet.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, Ponchaveli’s new Ponchaveli Gallery, located at The Drawing Board in Richardson, will play host to Art POWER Respect, an art gala and exhibit featuring works by 17 artists from Dallas and beyond, as well as new pieces by Ponchaveli himself. The event is red-carpet attired, complete with keynote speakers, live painting, spoken word and musical performances. It’s Ponchaveli’s way to give back to the city and artists who have molded him throughout his journey.
“There’s no better way to open up this new space than to celebrate these artists and get them some exposure,” he says.
Ponchaveli’s career has changed a lot over the last decade. In addition to crafting a bevy of buzzworthy murals, the self-taught artist has worked with brands such as PBR and Coca-Cola, opened his own art supply store and secured a new gallery space. Local brunch baker Crickles and Co. even names a sangria after him.
“When you get a drink named after you, you just kind of sit back and go, ‘Wow,’” he says.
But Ponchaveli knows a lot of people helped him get to those wow-worthy moments.
Jerod Davies, one of the 17 artists featured in the show, schooled Ponchaveli on where to buy paint for his first mural. Iris Candelaria, a Dallas artist and pastry chef also featured in the show, has been a longtime supporter and friend to Ponchaveli.
“Theo has such a humble power,” she says of the muralist. “It takes that kind of humility to check your ego at the door and put on an event like this.”
The event will also be a family affair for Ponchaveli, whose uncle, painter Fulton Washington, will be in attendance alongside seven of his paintings.
Washington was granted clemency in 2016 after serving 21 years in prison for a non-violent drug offense. He honed his craft behind bars, creating paintings of daughters, partners, dogs and loved ones for his fellow inmates. Washington and his nephew kept in touch, and when Ponchaveli decided to host the group show, the paroled painter jumped at the chance to get involved.
“I’m so proud of him and what he’s done, both as an artist and as a man,” Washington says.
But Ponchaveli is the one full of pride.
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“All of these artists work incredibly hard on their craft,” he says of his collaborators on “Art POWER Respect.” “Public arts deserve respect, and this show is our way to show people what’s possible when you work together.”
He believes a group show like this — as rare as it is — could be the start of something new for Dallas. More shows and projects for the community are on the horizon, and Ponchaveli is hoping to start an art program for at-risk youth.
“I started with a box of colored pencils and nothing else,” he says. “These artists and I are proof that, with hard work, there is no limit.”
Art POWER Respect is Saturday, Sept. 29 at The Drawing Board in Richardson. Learn more at thedrawingboarddfw.com.