Life's purpose: to
10:15 a.m. Mural man in Deep Ellum
Standing in the morning shade atop a paint-flecked ladder, Frank Campagna sprays a mural
of Texas music legend Ronnie Dawson outside a Deep Ellum loft. You may not have heard of
the 50-year-old, but if you've been to the Smirnoff concert shed, the Black Forest Theater
or the streets of the nightclub district east of downtown, you've seen his work.
He loves the idea of making pictures that stay behind after he's gone: "the impact a
visual artist can have without being present." In the early 1990s, he spearheaded the
Good Latimer tunnel project that brought together 200 artists to beautify the connector
road. "I encouraged graffiti artists to consider getting paid," he says.
The Dawson portrait is part of a series on local musicians he started outside his gallery,
Kettle Art. The series has since spread as other owners have commissioned him to
spray-paint murals on their buildings.
"I chose not to get a job around 1977," he says. "In college, I sold my
homework instead of turning it in. It was a light-bulb moment."
Among his accomplishments: painting party backdrops for the Rolling Stones and Guns N'
Roses. He's traded art with Andy Warhol, operated a punk-rock club in Deep Ellum years
before its late-'80s heyday and ate lunch with Timothy Leary at the Art Bar.
"I asked him the meaning of life, and he said, 'To enjoy.' I was kind of disappointed
at the time. Over time, it's made more sense."
photo by Guy Reynolds for the Dallas Morning News
Frank Campagna loves the idea of making
pictures that stay behind after he's gone.