How the 42 Murals Project Originated

One of the most famous of the 42 murals in Deep Ellum is Beauty and The King, where artist Leighton Autrey blends femininity (represented by roses) and masculinity (represented by lions) to create a compelling Christian-inspired mural. Another impressive mural is the funky-colored Cosmic Journey, created by project collaborator and curator, Lesli Marshall. The Cosmic Journey is a tribute to Justin and Diane of Pecan Lodge.

Lesli Marshall Incorporated a Texas twist into the mural and expressed gratitude for having the honor of painting a wall where she works and lives. She said that she was happy about the change and the opportunity of being a part of the culture following the buzz created by the 42 murals project. Leslie Marshall, who also paints murals globally for non-profits, has played a great role in the 42 murals project’s success. She was in charge of the proposals, matching artists to walls, and consequently led Deep Ellum’s dramatic transformation.

The idea behind the 42 murals project was easy. Scott Rohrmann, together with his partners, would request North Texas artisans to paint the walls of the expansive Deep Ellum streets with murals. There were more than two hundred proposals in response to the request, of which only 42 would be chosen. The selected 42 artists formed a diversified portfolio with different ages, perspectives, and qualifications. Apart from long term care provisions, the chosen artists were offered a little stipend and an opportunity to put their creativity on the walls and grow their presence on social media.

The 42 murals have made Deep Ellum become one of America’s most highly drenched hotspots for murals, and has rapidly changed the long-held notion that Deep Ellum is a rundown and a dangerous and dirty region in Dallas. Today many tourists flock to Deep Ellum, and the social media popularity of the region and that of the artists involved is growing. The 42 murals project continues to become even more successful. Scott Rohrman doesn’t shy away from admitting that there is a business gain from the 42 murals project. After all, the more folks are attracted to visit Deep Ellum, the more profitable his investment is. The 42 murals project promotes the art culture and boosts the community as well, and Scott Rohrman hopes that it will also boost commerce in the area.

Just like the area of Deep Ellum, the 42 murals project is projected to grow and evolve. Rohrman admits that he is open to change, and the murals are not meant to last perpetually. As the project grows and continues to evolve, new murals may be created over the existing ones. The 42 murals project is a natural process. It is a continuous dialogue about what art entails, and whether art is permanent.

Elm Street is filled with murals in the crannies and nooks of various side streets and alleys from Malcolm X to Good Latimer and in between Commerce and Elm Street. Most of the murals are inspired by the musical history of Deep Ellum and feature paintings of great blues artists, as well as contemporary and other local artists. One of the best ways to explore the 42 murals on Deep Ellum is to randomly walk around the area and discover them one by one.

Since 1873, Dallas has undergone a lot of impressive transformation, most of which revolve around art. With such a rich history that flows and ebbs with art, music, and business, Deep Ellum has become reputed as one of Dallas’ richest cultural districts. This has further been boosted by The 42 Murals project as well as its predecessors, The Renaissance of Deep Ellum and the Deep Ellum Project of 2009. However, with the growing popularity comes the inevitability of street art impermanence. Many murals are painted over existing ones from year to year to create room for subsequent projects as well as real estate development. This exemplifies one of the aspects in which conservation and street art are distinct. Conservation aims at preserving the original purpose and material, while street art murals focus on impermanence, the now and the new, and the viewer’s experience above all. As The 42 Murals Project continues to evolve and take various forms, more artists will get to showcase their talent, and this will solidify Deep Ellum’s reputation and attract more people leading to further growth of the region.

The Evolution of the 42 Murals

In 2012, a real estate development and investment firm, 42 real estate, acquired over 30 buildings in Deep Ellum. The real estate development and investment firm wanted to give back to the community rather than invade it as Deep Ellum locals widely perceived it at the time. Once they acquired the Deep Ellum structures, 42 real estate tried as much as it could to get to the root of what makes folks in Deep Ellum tick. They had an in-depth and lengthy discussion with the locals regarding what was dearest to Deep Ellum folks and discovered that art was an integral part of Deep Ellum and was indispensable to the region’s social fabric. Therefore, the real estate developers started asking themselves questions like how they could help Deep Ellum and artists while making the properties more valuable. The answer was simple–painting the walls with murals and making them a little more colorful.

The 42 murals project was inadvertently launched when a Spanish artist, Adrian Torres, who had just come back from painting murals in the Philippines’ poverty-stricken regions, was about to leave Deep Ellum. Toress had resided at Deep Ellum for a couple of months and was inspired by the urban atmosphere, which reminded him of New York and Europe’s vibe and grittiness. He requested Developer Scott Rohrman to paint a mural on the structure on Exhibition and Main, which is Deep Ellum’s most massive intersection.

Scott Rohrman fell in love with the idea which Adrian Torress had suggested and requested him to paint a mural before leaving. Torress agreed and started the painting towards the end of the summer of that year before the 42 murals project was unofficially launched. And so, the 42 murals project began. That summer, Adrian Torres painted the Deep Ellumphants as the first of what would be 42 murals. The Deep Ellumphants was quite remarkable and became one of the most popular of the 42 murals attracting hundreds of visitors, calls, and artists. The Deep Ellumphants depicts a colorful group of elephants with a raw, captivating quality.

Since the first mural the Deep Ellumphants was initiated, numerous murals have been painted by some of the most talented artists around Dallas, including a grandmother and a 14-year-old high school student. The 42 murals also feature works of teachers from Richardson ISD, Dallas ISD, and an award-winning animator.

Introduction to the 42 Murals Project

To call Deep Ellum a historic region east of downtown Dallas would be an underestimation. A more proper name would be the most iconic district in Dallas. Deep Ellum is a quirky and lively district of restored buildings, featuring some of Dallas’ best street arts as well as fantastic apartments, tattoo parlors, specialty shopping, live music venues, bars, and restaurants. Deep Ellum has been the place to explore art and discover music in Dallas since 1873. Murals lie conspicuously on every corner on Deep Ellum, portraying the district’s rich history and love for art. The mural scene at Deep Ellum has gone through various transformations, including the Renaissance of Deep Ellum, the Deep Murals Project of 2009, to the 42 Murals project of 2012.

The Renaissance period featured the Tunnelvisions project of Frank Campagna and Susan Reese, which was one of the first influential art projects in the trendy Deep Ellum. Towards the end of the 1990s, the project was torn down to pave the way for redevelopment. By 2009, murals were mushrooming in Deep Ellum, and a group of artists inspired by the artistic history of Deep Ellum and Frank Campagna and Susan Reese’s work came together and formed the Deep Murals Project of 2009.

This project’s objective was to transform some of the deteriorating, blank building walls into art pieces that reflected Dallas and Deep Ellum’s rich history and culture. The project was originated and supported by the Deep Ellum Community Association and featured mural paintings covering more than 8000 square feet. The artists who took part in the Deep Murals Project of 2009 were from all walks of life, including the 16-year-old daughter of the project’s founder and a sixty-year-old lady who had never painted a mural before.

The 42 Murals is a project that offers an opportunity to international, national, and local artists to exhibit their talent through the use of murals, which are painted on historical buildings in the Deep Ellum region of Dallas. The aim of the project is to make people in Dallas and Deep Ellum more art-conscious by offering free public art for the guests. Originally, the 42 murals project began with many bare walls in Deep Ellum. Some of these walls had been neglected and were disintegrating. Some were dotted with barred windows and recessed doors, while others had chipped paint.