It could be said that Deep Ellum holds the city's soul: We can boast of its nightlife, live music and food — but today let us marvel at the neighborhood's street art. There are 50-plus pieces by various artists on the walls of restaurants, clubs and tattoo shops in Dallas’ graffiti-hood: From a portrait of beloved late chef Anthony Bourdain to the colossal impressionist elephants by Spanish artist Adrian Torres and the bird and Running Man statues by sculptor Brad Oldham.
The majority of the murals are Texas-inspired. A few are memorial pieces for those we’ve lost. One of those is next to the Wit’s End entrance on Elm; a dedication to former doorman Mo London. Most street artists (aka, writers) are using new age spray paint imported from Europe with exciting color names such as “Disco White” and various caps for detailed sprays. And then there’s the Deep Ellum legend Frank Campagna, who works with good ol’ fashioned, made-in-the-U.S.A. Krylon.
A street art stroll starting at Trigger Fingers (behind Sandbar) to Louie Louie’s Piano Bar is dotted with some beauties. Some are massive, others petite and one can smoke a brisket. The factors considered for this list were execution, appearance and content.
Pac-Man by Anonymous
Subtle, crafty and funny — this little gem utilizes some preexisting pipes to improve the corner of South Good Latimer Expressway and Main Street.
Jolly by Ace Cordell
This is how Deep Ellum smokes a brisket. This functional piece of art has Mad Max, Burning Man and steampunk vibes — and it’s a smoker. It’s one of two pieces of art by Cordell at BrainDead Brewing on Main Street.
Big Robots by Anonymous
Behind the sand volleyball courts at Sandbar and opposite the Trigger Fingers collection in a cozy urban valley are five 30-foot latex painted robots. Part of the piece’s allure is its sheer size. The large white building is an ideal canvas.
Deep Ellum Janus by Dan Colcer
This latex-painted art work on the wall of Armoury D.E. restaurant and cocktail bar on Elm Street is by one of Dallas’ most beloved artists. Colcer is a classically trained artist schooled in his native Romania and at Cairo University in Egypt. He grew up in Romania’s Transylvania region not far from the Hungary border — most likely not a coincidence that the Armoury D.E.’s menu is rooted in Hungarian cuisine.
The Robot Versus Dinosaur by Frank Campagna
Similar to the warm feeling of escaping the doldrums of Oklahoma, crossing the Red River, seeing the “Welcome to Texas” sign and entering the Lone Star State — a similar feeling happens with a glance at Campagna’s mural. As a standalone piece, it’s funky and interesting; but it’s also functional — it’s the Deep Ellum welcome sign. This black and white piece is on the west-side wall of Louie Louie's Dueling Piano Bar and for those who love Deep Ellum, when you see this piece, you know you’re home.
Stevie Ray Ellum by Steve Hunter
We published an article in November 2017 titled, “Deep Ellum Didn't Have Any Stevie Ray Vaughan Murals Until an Artist Created 3 This Year.” That artist is Steve Hunter, and his Stevie art is glorious. Hunter’s bright, prismatic odes to the Dallas-born “SRV” brightens up the neighborhood. Like T-4-2 and the Dixie Chicks, Stevie Ray Vaughan unequivocally Dallas. RIP legend.
Trigger Fingers by Various Artists
Not far from Sandbar’s beach volleyball courts is Deep Ellum’s largest, centralized collection of street art. Directly opposite “Big Robots” are 15 beautiful pieces on a 20-foot-tall wall that stretches more than 100 yards. More than 20 writers gathered for a graffiti-jam in March, and “Trigger Fingers” was born. Pack a lunch, hang out and soak in the wall for a while. Give a close-eye look at Lui the Great’s piece, and notice the Dallas skyline in the eye of the woman warrior. And after hanging in the graffiti gorge with “Big Robots” and “Trigger Fingers,” there’s also a quality Frank Campagna piece around the corner on Hickory Street that’s also worth a look.
Rush Hour by Dan Kitchener
This freehand aerosol piece on Main Street is the work of a certified muralist global superstar, Dan Kitchener. The Tokyo-inspired piece is on the east-side wall of The Green Room on Elm Street. Other work by the British artist is found in Miami at the world-famous Wynwood Walls; New York City; Moscow; and loads of other places around the world. Red taillights and wet roads are common in his works, which Kitchener illustrates brilliantly.
Nolan Ryan Headlock by Isaac Davies
It was Aug. 4, 1993, and the Texas Rangers were hosting the Chicago White Sox. Nolan Ryan was on the mound and Robin Ventura dug in at the plate for the Sox. Ryan’s fastball was high, tight and hit Ventura in the back. Then Ventura made the biggest mistake of his life and charged the mound. Ryan, 20 years older than Ventura, grabbed him like a steer and delivered a series of uppercut blows to Ventura’s face. This phenomenal moment in Texas history is vividly remembered on the east-side wall of Wit’s End on Crowdus Street. Also visit Deep Ellum Art Co., Deep Ellum’s official-unofficial art community homebase. Have a few cocktails there and check out another piece by Davies, particularly the motorcycle mural in the beer garden.
Luka Wonder Boy and Kristaps Unicorn by Preston Pannek and Adrienne Creasey
One man can’t fill the shoes of the Mavericks’ beloved Dirk Nowitzki, but the Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis duo are doing a pretty damn good job. Here they are super humanized on the east-side wall of St. Pete's Dancing Marlin at South Crowdus Street. The creators of several murals throughout Deep Ellum, Pannek and Creasey's veterans mural on The Green Room was infamously blacked out in 2018. Other pieces by the artist include “The Godfathers of Deep Ellum” on the west-side wall of the Deep Ellum Art Co. The Lake Highlander presented a purple-hazed portrait to Sander Van Doorn ahead of his DJ set at Lizard Lounge on Saturday night. This piece is part of an electronic music-inspired series by Pannek and Creasey.