Deep Ellum is officially a cultural district in Dallas. (Photo by Micah Bires)
Deep Ellum Open "Air" Studio Tour will take place on October 17. You can take tours virtually, watch live muraling in person, and shop the artisan market. (Courtesy of DEF)
It’s about time Deep Ellum was officially designated as a cultural district in Dallas. Along with the Arts District (the first in the city to received designation), the neighborhood is one of the most historic and arts-centric areas in the city.
After the district was recognized by the Texas Commission of the Arts a couple of weeks ago, we caught up Deep Ellum Foundation’s executive director Stephanie Hudiburg and marketing coordinator Micah Bires, who joke that Deep Ellum is “the oldest, newest cultural district in Texas.”
Founded in 1999, DEF is a non-profit that manages public improvement in the neighborhood. From safety and security to infrastructure and social media activations to raise awareness, the organization has long been a promoter of Deep Ellum’s historic art scene.
“It’s exciting because Deep Ellum has always been a hub of culture in Texas and [the designation] legitimizes things we already know,” says Bires. “It opens up a lot of grant opportunities for local arts and culture organizations.” An upcoming project that this distinction will also help get the ball rolling on is a cultural trail that connects the Arts District to Deep Ellum and Fair Park. Launching initially as a digital, app-based experience in 2021, the trail emphasizing the history of live music, blues, and arts in the neighborhood will transition to a physical experience long-term.
The second year of Deep Ellum Open Studios, a one-day event highlighting local artists, will be a hybrid of virtual and in-person components. A series of behind-the-scenes videos and studio tours will be released throughout the week leading up to the October 17 event, which will include live muraling and an artisan market in the historic neighborhood. Some participating artists this year are Mariel Pohlman, Steven Reeves, and Sean Fitzgerald.
“It’s an opportunity for artists to showcase their work, as well as connect the neighborhood with the live-work artists and galleries,” says Bires. “It wasn’t an option to cancel this year because it’s been such a hard year for the artists.” The website will also feature online shopping before and after the event to support your favorite artists.
Another project that DEF recently helped curate is “Beyond The Streets,” an exhibition at Deep Ellum Art Company showcasing murals painted on plywood across the neighborhood in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. “We’ve preserved these murals all in one place, in a socially-distant way,” says Hudiburg. The exhibit is currently on display in the Art Yard.
And on October 18, the Deep Ellum History Day exhibit will be open.”It’s been a challenging year for everybody,” says Hudiburg. “We want to encourage everyone to follow safety protocols, but still support local businesses and artists. We want to be able to continue to provide enrichment and reprieve to people wanting to experience something different.”