Just over a month after his band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Def Leppard’s one-armed drummer, Rick Allen, also an accomplished artist, is returning to Atlanta for an art show.
Allen will appear at the Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead May 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.
This is Allen’s second trip to Atlanta for an art show in a year and a half. He also made an appearance at Wentworth’s Phipps and now-closed Perimeter Mall locations in Dunwoody in November 2017.
Allen was also at SunTrust Park in July for Def Leppard’s Atlanta stop on last year’s tour with Journey. The band will not visit Atlanta for its 2019 tour, according to its website, so this is fans’ only opportunity to see him in Atlanta this year.
“The last time I was in Atlanta for an art show, it was the first time I’d been (at Wentworth), and it was one of the most successful shows I’ve ever had to date,” Allen said. “I’ve always liked Atlanta. It’s really vibrant in terms of music scene and diversity of people. It’s great to be around it. I really enjoy being there. Hopefully the weather’s nice and I’m just really looking forward to coming back and seeing some of the people I met the first time and meeting others.”
ART BEFORE MUSIC
Allen said he actually discovered art in school as a child before getting into music. He joined Def Leppard in 1978, a year after it formed, when he was only 15.
“I kind of came full circle when my youngest child (Josie Caite) was born. We started painting together. She thinks everybody paints and sings. She’s become quite an accomplished artist herself.
“It was quite fantastic watching her painting. … It reminded of me when I play music. My wife (Lauren Monroe) said, ‘You’ve got to get this stuff out (sell it). People love it.’ I was a little bit afraid of people’s reaction.”
Allen, who splits time living in Los Angeles and Monterey, California, with his family when not on tour, specializes in art that includes photography, mixed media and painting and uses patriotic themes such as the American flag or U.S. veterans’ medals. At the Wentworth show, a percentage of the proceeds will go to programs aiding veterans.
Allen and Monroe co-founded The Raven Drum Foundation, a Malibu, California-based nonprofit whose mission is to serve, educate and empower veterans and people in crisis. The foundation commonly works to help individuals and communities in crisis through healing arts programs, drum circle events and collaborative partnerships.
Allen, who lost his left arm following a Dec. 31, 1984 car wreck in England, discovered in 2006, on a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, that he still has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the accident. Walter Reed is where many soldiers and veterans go for treatment for PTSD and other serious disorders or injuries.
“It’s very important (to honor veterans) because ever since (then), I realized they spoke the same language as me on how they deal with trauma,” Allen said. “On the face of it, it looks like I’m doing something for the vets, but in reality it’s a two-way street. It’s fortunate I’ve been able to work through my issues by spending time with our warriors. That’s huge for me. I’m not sure where I would be now if I had not admitted I needed help with the situation that affects a lot of us, not just warriors.
“It could be an abusive relationship, a car accident, an alcoholic background. One of the things I love about doing the art is it’s a beautiful experience not only for me to make the art but for those who love the art, without words. Sometimes words tend to get in the way. It’s a nice way to break the ice and it will lead to conversations about trauma.”
Def Leppard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame March 29 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where lead singer Joe Elliott brought Allen to tears with a speech about him losing his arm.
Queen guitarist Brian May, a longtime friend of the band, introduced Def Leppard before Elliot spoke.
“He survived it and came out on the other side stronger,” May said of Allen’s car wreck and recovery.
Allen said he was moved by their speeches and thankful the band was inducted into the Hall.
“I didn’t really know what to expect until I was in it, in that situation,” he said. “Looking out at all the people that were there, industry people also, it was fantastic that we finally got recognition from the industry. We always knew our fans were always with us.
“In many ways we didn’t need that confirmation, but when we went through the ceremony and everything Brian May said and Joe said, it really got quite emotional. It was just feeling that recognition and feeling like we were joining a very exclusive club. I just kind of lost it for a moment there, reflecting on everything I’ve been through and where I am today. It just really meant a lot to me.”
David Holden, who leads sales and gallery development for Wentworth’s entire operation and is the director of its Phipps location, said the news of Def Leppard’s recent induction may not draw more fans to the art show but validates Allen as a musician.
“I think it’s sort of like the cherry on the sundae,” he said. “People love him already and it just sort of justifies their love. I don’t think it’s going to generate more of a stir, but it takes people and says, ‘This is what he deserves.’”
Holden said he’s expecting several hundred fans to attend Allen’s show, based on the crowds at the 2017 shows and the inquiries from fans about this year’s event.
“It’s huge,” he said. “The response is really, really amazing. … We’re getting huge response for it. People are excited. Also, he’s a really, really nice guy.”
Holden said attendees must buy at least one piece of Allen’s art in order to meet him, including having have him sign autographs or have their photo taken with him. Also, patrons who buy a certain amount of Allen’s art (ask Holden at the gallery to find out how much, he said) will get to have dinner with the rock star after the show.
Holden said since Allen’s artwork is already on display and for sale at the gallery, he recommended fans check out and purchase his paintings before the show to view a larger variety of his work, since some may be sold prior to the event.
Allen said he enjoys the interaction he has with fans at his art shows since he can spend more time with them.
“When I go to the art shows, it’s a lot more personal, my interaction with fans,” he said. “When I go to a Def Leppard show, it’s a lot more brief. But at an art show, I can really get into what makes people tick.”