Dan Thompson Making His Mark on Indy’s Art Scene
Photographer / Michael Durr
If you have walked the streets or alleyways of Broad Ripple and neighboring areas in and around Indianapolis, you have likely stumbled upon the artwork of graffiti artist Dan Thompson. Born and raised in the area, Thompson has spent many years developing his craft and continues to challenge himself in new ways.
Thompson’s love for the art form began by reading graffiti magazines, watching “Style Wars” and learning from his friends in high school. He was drawn to the medium by the community and social aspects that surround it.
“I didn’t have any interest in being an artist as a kid,” Thompson says. “I had a lot of talent but didn’t have any passion, and graffiti is the thing that gave me passion.”
In 1998, Thompson and his high school friend Ben Long began collaborating on murals. Thompson’s ability to create characters, and Long’s graffiti skills, sparked a great partnership. They signed their paintings with the name FAB Crew – a name originally derived from Fred and Barney – as a joke for their friends. Through the years and many murals later, the name became the calling card for their work, and in 2010 it also became the name of their business.
A graduate of Herron School of Art + Design, Thompson began studying painting and eventually switched to general fine art. He acknowledges the influence of the professors and mentors he had in high school and college as he sprayed his way into the field, but he also believes that the only way to become a good graffiti artist is to put in the time.
After pouring hours into his work throughout many years, Thompson began to create a unique style all his own, combining graffiti with traditional painting and illustration.
“The beauty of graffiti and creating big murals with spray paint is that there is no instant gratification on earth that is like that,” Thompson says.
The first important job Thompson had was working on The Caring Place in Indianapolis. He worked with a team of artists, painting an elaborate mural for an entire year. He calls the project his master’s degree in painting. While he may not have taken much money home from the hours he put in, he made up for it with the knowledge he gained and the experience collaborating with his talented team.
One particularly eye-catching piece that Broad Ripple residents may recognize adorns the exterior walls of LAVA Lounge, located on Guilford Avenue. The vibrant color and impactful messaging is hard to miss. The alley side of LAVA is dedicated to local DJ and photojournalist Mpozi Mshale Tolbert, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 34. The mural was recently redesigned and recreated as part of a plan that also involved painting the front of the building. The work done on LAVA has a special meaning for Thompson, not only because of what the mural means to his friends, but also for the culture of Broad Ripple.
“We started in Broad Ripple 20 years ago and it was just cool to be back breathing that air,” Thompson says.
You can also find some of Thompson’s more recent work facing the Monon Trail on Chipotle restaurant’s exterior wall, and you might even find a painted cameo, located inside HotBox Pizza on Broad Ripple Avenue, completed by Long.
Thompson believes his art is his purpose, and he truly values being embraced by the Broad Ripple community.
“Broad Ripple has a certain ghost about it, and people really appreciate the culture and people like me who contribute to the culture,” Thompson says.
Thompson remains inspired and continues to create. If you want to keep tabs on his work, or if you are interested in hiring him for a custom project, you can find him on Instagram at: instagram.com/invisible_hometown.