Deep Ellum News

Deep Ellum lands famous Shepard Fairey artwork in an unexpected place

Deep Ellum lands famous Shepard Fairey artwork in an unexpected place

Shepard Fairey watertower
It's way up high. Jonathan Furlong

A water tower in Deep Ellum is now festooned with art from an internationally famous artist: Shepard Fairey, famous for the 2008 Barack Obama "Hope" poster, has completed a mural called Cultivate Harmony on what is surely one of the most challenging canvases.

Fairey and his crew painted the exterior of a water tower located at 3311 Elm St., IE the Continental Lofts building, where it sits 150 feet high. The commission was overseen by Goldman Global Arts, a creative collective known for unique art destinations such as Miami's Wynwood Walls, who are working with property owner/developer Westdale on a series of art projects in the neighborhood.

Fairey is a veteran of large-scale murals and other outdoor pieces, and has already executed a number of water tower projects such as the Power & Equality Water Tower in New York and the Obey Giant Water Tower in Detroit.

As he notes on his website, he also has a personal connection to the neighborhood.

"I was excited to paint a mural in Deep Ellum because the creative energy in the neighborhood is amazing, with art popping up everywhere (including a great mural by my friend of many years Maya Hayuk), and it is the first area where I ever put up street art in Dallas 21 years ago," Fairey says. "I've done plenty of water towers 'hit and run' with paste-ups over the years, but this fully painted cylinder was possibly the most serious logistical challenge of my career."

Fairey says that he and his crew were working on 19-inch-wide temporary scaffolding with ropes and harnesses for long hours over a three-day period.

"Luckily we had great support from a safety crew who also helped hoist up supplies and pizzas," he says.

The imagery and text of the mural needed to be bold enough to read from a distance, so he says he stuck to evergreen themes: the idea that peace and harmony need to be cultivated with care and love, and that it is important for all of us to keep our eyes and minds open.

"I threw in a nod to Black Flag, and some encouragement to take the high road, with the 'Rise Above' text," he says.

Goldman Global Arts CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick, dubbed the "godmother of street art," says that Westdale's goal was to enhance Deep Ellum's profile as a creative neighborhood.

"It was all about taking the DNA of this neighborhood and taking it to a whole other level," she says.

They also liked the idea of transforming an unpredictable venue such as a water tower into a canvas.

"We got to translate that into an art piece that can be seen from all directions," she says. "Sometimes we don't look up or pay attention to what is right in front of us. It's exciting to put color and concepts onto places you never noticed before."