DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For decades, the story of West Dallas has been one of poverty, neglect, and hard times. It’s hardly the place one would go looking for great art.

Until now.

“Art’s good for any neighborhood, but especially up and coming neighborhoods,” says celebrated graphic artist, Shepard Fairey, “I think it peaks the interest of younger people who will come and try and do something cool and positive, so I think it’s especially good for up and coming neighborhoods.”

Shepard Fairey has been called the most accomplished graphic artist of our time… skyrocketing to fame after creating the “Hope” poster for President Barack Obama. The original now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

“The Obama poster became a viral phenomenon that I never would have imaged and that was really amazing for me,” says Fairey. “A lot of people feel they can’t become involved beyond voting… I made a poster that demonstrated that any person with a desire to participate in addition to voting can do something , with the potential for it to become bigger.”

Dallas Contemporary, which revels in the edginess of Fairey’s art, commissioned the project. Its director, Peter Doroshenko, loves Fairey’s ability to provoke reaction, no matter where his eerily bold images leave their imprint.

“This is a way to engage many, many thousands of people in their communities and give something back… and hopefully lighten up their day, bring art to a trip to the bank, or to the post office,” says Doroshenko.

Fairey, 42, grew up in South Carolina, where in 1984 he launched his career drawing on skateboards and T-shirts. In 1992, he graduated from the elite Rhode Island School of Design, which is also the alma mater of L.A. sculptor Elliott Hundley, whose new show opened Saturday at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

In 1989, Fairey created his famous “André the Giant Has a Posse” sticker, which evolved into the Obey Giant campaign. Time magazine sharply heightened his profile by having him design its 2008 Person of the Year cover (Obama). He got an encore by doing its 2011 Person of the Year cover (“The Protester,” in deference to Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring and other international movements).

Fairey’s work “reaches out to individuals who don’t have a background in art or art history. But when you see his work on the streets, it stops you. You don’t expect to see artwork going to the bank. It’s hard not to see his work anywhere in the world and not have an emotional response”, says Doroshenko.

Always the artist, Fairey says, “I think it’ll be great for people to come and check out the art in person when it’s finished.” An opening celebration for the city-wide mural project is on Saturday, February 4 from 9 PM until midnight at Dallas Contemporary, 161 Glass Street. Shepard Fairey will DJ the music. Tickets are $50. Visit www.dallascontemporary.org for more information.

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