Arts / Galleries / Real Estate / Neighborhoods

Inside Deep Ellum’s Transformation — and the Reborn Art Bar That’s Fighting the New Trendy Tide

The Tunnel is Back Too

BY // 11.01.17

It doesn’t take so much as a tattoo to know that Deep Ellum is changing. Uptown is infiltrating the most colorful neighborhood of Dallas on every corner: Stirr, Harlowe MXM, high-rise apartments and fashion bloggers posing in front of murals. With all the clean-cut additions coming to the area, it’s comforting to know that one new spot wants to keep things as they are.

Deep Ellum Art Co. has been a fixture of Commerce Street for years, and this fall, it’s been reborn as a haven “for the creative and native.”

The long-defunct art store reopened in September as a bar, gallery and creative space for local artists of all trades.

“The concept was really born because of the Art Co. building,” says co-owner John LaRue. “The whole premise was to keep something that’s been in the neighborhood for a really long time the same, because so much in this neighborhood is changing right now and there’s a lot of people who don’t like that…

“It seemed logical to give this space a second chance as what it was.”

LaRue called upon dozens of local artists to bring this idea to fruition. The space is his, artistic director Amber Crimmings’ and many others’ interpretation of Deep Ellum.

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Sure, it’s a bar, but that’s not the point. You can tell from the moment you walk up to the door that art comes first here. The exterior is covered in murals: the Deep Ellum Godfathers by Isaac Davies and Preston Pannek, a girl dropping a needle to a record by Todd Bot, robots by Chase Fleischman.

Izk Davies and Preston Pannek

 

Inside, there’s a long gallery wall which features a group show from local artists, rotating every two weeks and based around a central theme. The current show has a seasonally-appropriate theme, inspired by the haunting works of José Guadalupe Posada.

The space welcomes local musicians or performers nearly every night. A modular stage allows the artists freedom to perform however they choose.

“We wanted something that was dynamic and that people could come into and enact their fantasy as far as their event goes,” LaRue says.

The Magic Tunnel

Past the stage and the bar, a hallway to the patio has been transformed into the Good Latimer tunnel – once the portal to Deep Ellum. Sean Fitzgerald provided photos of the original tunnel, which were then printed on vinyl and posted to the walls.

“That was really important to me because I was really unhappy to see its demise. The opportunity to share it with people in the future was really important to me,” says LaRue.

The artful hallway leads out to a huge patio, which hosts weekly art markets, food trucks, and serves as a working space for artists.

“I wanted the people to be able to take ownership of their pieces here and do their own thing. We’ve been able to give artists the freedom to create what they want to create,” LaRue says.

It’s all about fostering a community of collaboration – as the motto states, “catering to the creative and native.” The fact that this community has also become an ideal spot for people to hang out, grab a drink, catch a show, and maybe buy some art is just a bonus.

“We’re not going to do things just for the dollar here, we’re going to do things because it fits in our mission statement,” LaRue says. “That’s the DNA that we’ve decided to assign ourselves.”

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