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.