Once a year, a long line starts forming outside Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum an hour or so before the place opens. The line winds through the streets with a stream of very patient people.
“People start lining up at 5:30 p.m. or a quarter to 6 p.m.,” says gallery founder Frank Campagna. “Last year, we had people show up at 1:30 in the afternoon with lawn chairs and coolers. The line always goes to Commerce Street before we open the door.”
The annual For The Love of Kettle event that returns this Saturday starting at 7pm draws a crowd similar in size to that waiting to buy the latest iPhone on launch day outside an Apple store. The annual gallery day gives patrons a literally once-a-year opportunity to purchase a 12-by-12-inch piece of art from some of Dallas’ newest and best artists. It is a decisive day for the gallery as well.
“Canic is a phenomenon,” says Campagna. “It’s not the only gallery in town by any means, but it’s local art and one of the longest running.”
Kettle Art has operated out of Deep Ellum since 2005 as a “launch pad” for Texas artists who find it difficult or almost impossible to get a gallery to show their work to the public.
“It’s hard to find a gallery to work with you,” says artist Mahsa Moein, who started working with the gallery in 2018. “Kettle Art is so friendly and welcoming to me. [Other galleries are] so competitive and not open to new art. That’s the good thing about Kettle. They took me in and welcomed me and helped me find my place here.”
As an artist and muralist himself, whose work can be seen all over the city, Campagna says the gallery is designed to be a place that shows Dallas the talent it has right in its backyard.
“I wanted to be inclusive and take the stuff out of art galleries,” says Campagna. “I wanted a place that played rock and punk. I just wanted it to be just Texas. One of the frustrating things about Dallas is that Dallas is a beautiful city. To me, I always see Dallas as a beautiful small town. It’s just weird to bring up big artists and the first thing they do is pack their bags and go to New York or LA or something.”
Campagna says Kettle Art started in Deep Ellum at a time when it wasn’t as loud.
“Different property owners came to me and said, ‘What are we going to do to fix it?’ he says. “I said, ‘That’s easy, go back to the roots.'”
Kettle Art started on Elm Street before moving to its current home on Main Street. The gallery has exhibited and sold works by artists such as painter and printmaker Judith Lea Perkins, surrealist sculptor Sergio Garcia and performance artist Erica Felicella.
“Kettle has always allowed me to stretch my arms,” Felicela says. “There are not many ideas that they are not willing to talk to me about. In the early days, we did all kinds of things together and talked about things together, and as we old-timers started to grow in our careers, Frank welcomed us with open arms and let us challenge ourselves with our practice.
Campagna’s mission to welcome new artists and challenge them to be better than they ever thought they could be is also the secret that keeps Kettle Art going year after year.
“There’s a lot of love, a lot of people,” says Campagna. “It’s kind of like a family in a way. I insist a lot on artists. First, I just have to watch their stuff, and if I like their personality and direction…I’ll give them feedback. I will bring their art and other artists will help point them in the right direction and they help each other. It’s cool, very organic.”
Felicella says Kettle Art’s success comes from Campagna’s “insistence” on keeping his doors open to young artists who want an opportunity to share their visions.
“It’s just a different model than any other gallery in the whole city, and as it grows, the artists are the ones who show up,” Felicela says. “It’s a family compared to a list, and with it, we all return to space because we’ve been given so much.”
of “Kazan’s Love” art for sale. starts at 7pm on Saturday at Kettle Art, located at 2650-B Main St.