Off the beaten path in Deep Ellum -- at least for now -- there's construction stirring at Deep Ellum Art Co., an ambitious concept expected to open this summer. It's slated to be a music and art venue with two stages, a bar and a food truck park.
It'll also host a monthly art bazaar, Deep Ellum's Art Festival. Not to be confused with the annual festival, this "outdoor street art gallery" is exclusively a place for local vendors, says owner John LaRue.
LaRue, also the owner of Grapevine's So Cal Tacos, remembered visiting Deep Ellum as a teenager in the '90s when he saw the words "Art Co." in steel letters above the front doors at 3200 Commerce St.
"I've driven past this building a million times," LaRue says. "It's in Bottle Rocket. The signage alone was too cool to think about taking down."
In 2015, he bought the building and three surrounding lots and pursued the idea of a multi-faceted venue dedicated to the local art and music scenes. "This part of Dallas is worth preserving with its identity," LaRue says. "For, of and by the community."
"Dedicated to the creative and native," Deep Ellum Art Co. is planned to open in August and host an eclectic mix of music and art events, which could also include theater, comedy, spoken word, interpretive dance or even pottery lessons, he says.
"We're always reading about budget cuts with the arts," he says. "But I want more of it available to people."
There will be both ticketed events inside and free events outside, several nights a week. The programming will include touring acts, though he is committed to promoting local artists first, he says.
"We don't need to go to the left coast or the right coast to gather artists," he says. "There are so many incredibly talented people here in North Texas."
Inside, the venue is 5,000 square feet, with an expected capacity of 400 to 500 people. It will feature a 46-foot bar with 30 beer taps and a stage in the back. Outside, there are two lots: a back lot that will become a pavilion with an outdoor stage and a side lot that will hold up to four food trucks.
As for those familiar steel letters that sat above the front door, LaRue plans to replace them after the word "art" was stolen in February.
Still, as he finishes construction, LaRue notes they "have to get the spirit of it correct."
"At the end of the day, it's about the community and providing an opportunity to be creative," he says.