The Deep Ellum Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves its namesake Dallas neighborhood, has partnered with local tattoo businesses to highlight the work of tattoo artists on newly installed streetlight pole banners.
Each of the ten banners was designed by a different artist, and four tattoo shops are represented, including Taboo Tattoo, Dallas Tattoo and Arts Company, Artistic Encounter, and Elm Street Tattoo. While most of the banners feature new designs, one marks the first time the foundation has rehung a past banner. Originally showcased in 2017, this banner features work by Norman Dean Williams, founder of Elm Street Tattoo, who died in 2021 at the age of 50.
In the press release announcing the new pole banners, Shawn Hodges, Operations Manager at Elm Street Tattoo, stated, “Dean passed away this summer, which has left a big hole in our hearts. He truly was one of a kind.”
The other artists included are Mike Duncan, Kat Freedman, Kendall Kirkland, Rudy Hetzer, David Nash, Cody Briggs, Chelsi Morrow, Hamid Rasul, and Damian Reign.
The banners, which showcase a range of styles by local artists, serve to identify and promote the neighborhood. Deep Ellum was established in 1873 as a freedman’s town, settled by African American people who were formerly enslaved. Soon it would attract factories like the Continental Gin Company and the Ford plant that produced the Model T. The neighborhood was a hotspot for jazz and blues music from the 1920s to the 1950s.
The 1980s saw a resurgence of live music venues and other businesses including Barry Whistler Gallery, which opened in 1985. Over the last decade, there have been continued shifts in the neighborhood with Barry Whistler relocating to Dallas’ Design District in 2016 and Kirk Hopper Fine Art making a similar move last year. Among the restaurants and music venues, smaller galleries like Kettle Art and Umbrella Gallery remain, as well as other arts adjacent businesses like Deep Vellum Books and Photographique (a photo lab).