I have loved Dallas since I moved to the city in 1997. Living 10 minutes from the city center, as the crow flies, makes it almost impossible not to go and explore downtown streets whenever an opportunity arises. Every other month, often on a weekend, preferably in the morning, no matter the weather, walking on sidewalks flanked by skyscrapers (some more “scraping” than others), there is always something that I have not seen before or not seen until that day. Buildings are cleaned off and on; some have new facades, and others are regularly torn down to make space for a contemporary architectural adventure. Not all changes are appealing, but some certainly stand out because they are inventive or brighten previously dark places.
One of the things that always takes my breath away is the wealth of murals that can be found in the most unexpected places. Some murals are visible simply driving along main thoroughfares, while others are not obvious and rely on an “out-of-the-way” by foot approach. For example, Deep Ellum is a well-known neighborhood off Elm Street, known for its rich art and music history. The murals in this area alone are astounding.
One of my favorite murals is “Deep Ellumphants” by Adrian Torres at 3601 Main Street. Another recently completed work by Torres depicts a gigantic, vibrant tribute to Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Billie Eilish. This mural can be found on a wall facing a parking lot at 2202 Elm Street. Another epic mural lasting in memory is Robert Wyland’s “Whaling Wall,” located in the parking lot at 505 North Akard Street.
But the mural forever etched in my mind is at 701 Leonard Parking Garage and overlooks the Dallas Arts District. Entitled “The Storm” by artists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison and finished in 1997, the mural is 120 feet tall and 150 feet wide. It depicts about 40 local artists trying to make it in the industry. In an article by Krista Nightengale published in D Magazine in 2010, Chris Arnold says, “The title of ‘The Storm’ is a metaphor for the creative process. The storm gathers when you have an assignment or a piece you want to execute. You get into this tumultuous state of mind. Staring at that blank canvas, anxiety mounts up, and then it starts clicking, and that’s the center of the storm. That’s where we get this passion, this fire swirling.”
There are many neighborhoods in Dallas where to see, take in, and admire hundreds of murals by better or lesser-known artists. Each of those pieces tells a story, whether it is something bringing communities together or trying to make a statement, causing an explosion of colors and emotions, underlining some unspoken truth, whispering ideas, or declaiming action. Dallas’ Office of Arts & Culture (OAC), headed by Director Martine Elyse Philippe, aims to support and grow a sustainable cultural ecosystem that ensures all residents and visitors have opportunities to experience arts and culture throughout the city.