A new mural project in Deep Ellum aims to shine a light on Dallas’ influence over the Blues music genre by highlighting some of the city’s own.
Entertainment is Deep Ellum’s claim to fame, and people who enjoy the area now have music legends who came long before them to thank for that. Blues greats like Freddie King, Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins, "Blind Lemon" Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Johnson inspired a new project. Artist Dan Colcer and his wife, Oak Cliff native and lifelong Dallas resident Cathryn Colcer, came up with the idea for a “Blues Alley.”
“The Blues musicians were the ones who were the entertainers of the time,” said Dan Colcer. “The whole idea behind the blues alley is to pay tribute to these guys, as they seem to be forgotten in one way another.”
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Blues Alley will consist of several murals lining the walls of Clover Street, between Henry Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. The Colcers feel local muralists have taken on the spirit of Blues buskers. Buskers were street performers, entertaining on the street or in public spaces for donations or gifts.
“A lot of people forget that Dallas is a main hub for not where the musicians made their name but where they came from,” said Cathryn Colcer.
To bring the idea to life, the Colcers teamed up with the Deep Ellum Foundation and selected a handful of North Texas artists to participate. The artists were asked to use different shades of blue for their creations. Considering the history of Deep Ellum as a Freedman’s Town, Colcer said they were careful to select Black and immigrant artists as well.
“How would you feel about someone from a completely different background talking about your history?” said Cathryn Colcer.
Ebony Lewis is one of those artists. As a sixth-grade history teacher, this project is special to her. She said she understands the significant influence Black artists have, and the origins of this genre, so she feels her presence on the project only makes sense.
“It’s very important that we have representation on projects like these because the talent is there,” said Lewis.
Lewis’ piece will depict a transition in Blues. Where the genre has been and where it’s going. At some point, she plans to bring her students out to see the work.
“I wanted young people to be able to see the connection between the historic aspect and the music that they listen to today,” she said.
Other artists Alec DeJesus, Hatziel Flores, Alfredo Pena, Teal Suns, Isaac Davies, and Ryan Stalsby.
When it’s all said and done, people will inevitably flock to Deep Ellum for Instagram photo ops. But the hope that visitors will see the work and appreciate the musicians who inspired it.
“The whole idea behind the blues alley is to pay tribute to these guys, as they seem to be forgotten in one way another,” said Colcer.
Blues Alley is expected to be complete sometime in July.