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New Podcast: Frank Campagna of Kettle Art Talks Deep Ellum and His Gallery

You’ll want to get in line early on Saturday if you want to make it out of Kettle Art with a few precious 9x12s.
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Frank Campagna opened Kettle Art in Deep Ellum in 2005. Tim Rogers

Every year, Frank Campagna and his staff fill the walls of his small Deep Ellum gallery, Kettle Art, with 9-by-12s that sell for $50 apiece. Folks line up hours early and charge in, calling dibs on tiny paintings made by dozens of local artists. “For the Love of Kettle” is tomorrow, February 11, at 7 p.m.—although you’ll want to get in line a few hours prior to that if you’re serious about buying. Campagna calls it “competitive shopping,” and the event helps the gallery hum throughout the year.

Campagna joined us at the Old Monk to talk about this event, but he has been part of Deep Ellum so long that most of our conversation was about the neighborhood itself. He took us through the ’70s and ’80s, when Black Flag would crash on his floor and the Butthole Surfers would pop up every weekend asking to get on one of the bills he booked. We talked about the Premier Club and the Twilight Room and Naomi’s.

How he’s painted over a thousand murals in the neighborhood—and a couple in Prizzi, a mountain village in Sicily.

Campagna knows history is in the past, and he sees that in Deep Ellum. After all, the Gypsy is a parking lot now. “It just keeps evolving,” he said of the neighborhood. “I remember in ’86 and ’87 people saying it sold out. … You can be a dinosaur, or you can evolve.”

Westdale Asset Management is the largest property holder in the neighborhood. It sat on vacant land for years until it came time to build its office and apartment towers on the outskirts of the district. Before that came Scott Rohrman’s 42 Real Estate, which bought up dozens of old buildings and parking lots and rented them to mostly locals before selling to North Carolina’s Asana Partners in 2017. Since then, we’ve seen more national and regional chains moving in. Deep Ellum doesn’t look like it did even 10 years ago.

But Kettle Art is still on Main Street, as it has been since 2005. Frank is still inside, selling art made by local artists, sometimes to K-Pop superstars BTS. It’s why “For the Love of Kettle” is an important event and also why you should listen to the podcast after the jump.

Author

Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…
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