Artist repurposes old satellite dishes for shade and shelter

repurposed satellite dishes at Smokey Banana Tattoo
© Tom Cross Gallery

After rabbit ears antennas and before wider adoption of the internet and cable TV, large satellite dishes delivered premium television to those homes that could afford it, but with the coming of the digital age and the advent of web amenities such as YouTube, on-demand movies from Netflix and Hulu, and cheaper cable service for media, many of these dishes have become merely artifacts that collect dust.

However, one artist has found a clever way to repurpose them as both shade and shelter, along with serving as a canvas for his art.


Tom Cross, tattooist and artist based in Broomfield CO (Denver metro area), first used a repurposed satellite dish as protection from the elements for a well and pump at an off-grid property, and then took that idea a step further by creating an installation of them in front of the Smokey Banana Tattoo shop, where they serve as "a shaded area for customers, employees, friends and the occasional Mexican wrestling match."

Cross takes these older "C-class" satellite dishes and with a little bit of work, turns them into funky yet functional shade covers. The sizes of satellite dishes he uses range from 6 to 12 feet in diameter, and because they're made from aluminum, they are light and easy to work with. According to Cross, every city or metro area has someone who has stockpiled these older dishes, which can sometimes be had for free, or for a nominal cost (depending on the size).


To repurpose these satellite dishes, Cross uses screen door material (screen door screen?), which is cut to fit in between the radial support bars on the convex side of the dishes. The screen is then painted on with roofing paint and after drying, the final artistic renderings are painted onto them (the screen and roofing paint gives more surface area for the painted designs to adhere to).


Once the design is finished, a triangle of 2x4s are attached to the bottom of the satellite dishes, using 6 lag bolts (two per each leg of the triangle), and then the completed dish is mounted to the top of three 4x4 posts at a height and angle that works best for both the overall design and the desired shade pattern.


If you're ever in or near Broomfield CO, you can see the finished satellite dish canopies for yourself outside of the Smokey Banana Tattoo studio (which is also a repurposed artifact, originally a Sinclair gas station from 1953) at 1405 Hwy. 287.

Artist repurposes old satellite dishes for shade and shelter
Old satellite dishes, once the mainstay of homes that subscribed to premium TV programming, are being replaced by the internet, cable TV, and tiny dishes, but that doesn't mean they're completely useless, as this artist demonstrates.

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