VIDEO: Deep Ellum CommUNITY Arts Fair Returns

Arts Fair
Deep Ellum CommUNITY Arts Fair advertisement | Image by Deep Ellum Community Arts Fair/Facebook

Deep Ellum CommUNITY Arts Fair is returning for its second year, providing the biggest pre-eclipse party in Dallas.

The Dallas Express spoke with Breonny Lee, president of the Deep Ellum Community Association, about the community’s rich history and what we can expect this year after the fair’s successful debut last year.

Deep Ellum is “the most dynamic entertainment district in Dallas today,” said Lee. “It is home to over 30 live music venues, some of the best restaurants in the city, and more murals than any other district in the city.”

“There is something to discover on every corner,” added Lee.

In speaking about the evolution of Deep Ellum into a creative hub, Lee explained that originally, Deep Ellum was “more of a residential neighborhood … in a separate city in east Dallas. It was not until the 1890s that Deep Ellum became part of the City of Dallas officially.”

Lee went on to explain to The Dallas Express that Deep Ellum was more of a mix of a residential and industrial neighborhood, and it was not until “probably about 100 years ago that it became known as Theatre Row.”  Theatre Row, Lee explained, extends “from Deep Ellum down into what’s now the Majestic.”

By the 1920s, Deep Ellum became known for its rich blues music.

Speaking about the cultural phenomenon of Deep Ellum, Lee said, “Deep Ellum is on the map, not just locally, but globally, for being part of the story of building the blues and the legacy of the blues that we know today.”

“You stand in Deep Ellum, and you can see that the arts are alive and well in the City of Dallas,” Lee told DX.

When asked about the success of last year’s inaugural Deep Ellum CommUNITY Arts Fair (DECAF), Lee said, “There were a lot of moving parts and some really hard-working volunteers who made this happen.”

She explained that while she spearheaded the event, “It certainly was not a singular effort. It was a monumental community lift.”

Last year’s fair drew nearly 80,000 attendees over three days. When asked if the organizers had anticipated that large of a turnout, she replied jokingly, “It’s really hard to say what we were anticipating because we hadn’t done it before. We expected a good turnout, but that 80,000 number was bigger and more exciting than we were anticipating.”

Residents and visitors can jump-start the total solar eclipse festivities by heading to Deep Ellum for the second annual DECAF. The fair will take place from April 5 through 7 along Crowdus Street from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is free to attend and open to all ages.

“The purpose of this event is to bring people out to Deep Ellum, and one of our goals is to bring people into the existing brick-and-mortar bars and restaurants,” Lee told DX.

Lee explained that they are “partnering with the bars” along Crowdus Street, and “some of them will have little beer gardens on their patios to help build the commerce and culture that already exists in Deep Ellum.”

When asked to name some of her top spots and supporters on the footprint of historic Deep Ellum, she replied, “My favorite is St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin, which is a Deep Ellum institution.”

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin has been around for over two decades and boasts hardwood floors, a 42-foot wooden bar with over 50 brands of bottled beers, 15 on tap, and premium wines, per its website.

“Then there is a newer bar, Will Call, and they’re also great supporters of the local music scene and DECAF,” added Lee.

DECAF will have roaming circus performers and three outdoor stages featuring live music. Music will be provided by local musicians, including Dezi 5, Bull By The Horn, and more.

Art is the primary highlight of the fair, with “over 100 fine and decorative artists spanning all mediums,” said Lee, ranging from painters to photographers to jewelers and leather workers.

“This event is really focused on art and artists, all of which are local or regional artists, 75% of them from the greater Dallas area,” Lee told DX. “Everyone who participates in this event has to demonstrate a meaningful tie to the Deep Ellum neighborhood.”

“This means some of them live in the neighborhood or are adjacent to it, show artwork at other venues in the neighborhood, or have murals in the neighborhood,” explained Lee. “Some of them have a meaningful connection to the neighborhood through childhood memories, nights out on the town, or used to live in the area.”

This year’s fair is expected to draw at least as many visitors as last year, most likely more. That said, Lee recommends people use DART to avoid hassling with traffic.

“Deep Ellum is about two blocks from two different DART stations,” said Lee. “It’s really easy to hop off the train and walk a couple of blocks to participate in the event.”

“This event is put on by local people for local people,” Lee stressed to DX. “All the staff and volunteers are putting their time into this event because they believe in fostering the arts and the community in Deep Ellum. This event is created and produced for the community by the community.”

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