Tucson Tattoo Expo Puts the Spotlight on Local Talent

March 9, 2015

The Ball Room is full of visitors who enjoy a room full of tattoo talent every year at the expo.

The Ball Room is full of visitors who enjoy a room full of tattoo talent every year at the expo.

By Cristina Manos

Downtown Tucson will host the seventh annual Tucson Tattoo Expo at the Hotel Tucson City Center (475 N. Granada Ave) from Friday through Sunday March 27-29. It may be a surprise to some to know that this is a family event with something for everyone, and it is not entirely about tattoos.

The Tucson Tattoo Expo is really about the endless possibilities and expanded opportunities for personal expression through art and style, according to Jon Lewis, who coordinates the event every year. It’s a lot of work for one guy, but for Lewis there’s a reason he’s doing it, and it’s not for money.

10255689_601505919918826_8132976610299035818_nThe Tucson Tattoo Expo admission fee is extremely reasonable. At $10 a day or $15 for the whole weekend, most Tucsonans can afford it, and anyone under 18 years of age will be admitted free with an accompanying adult. There will be over one hundred local and national tattoo artists featuring work and entering contests throughout the weekend. Amazing tattoo styles, designs and techniques, as well as the personalities behind them, will be at the fingertips of attendees.

The Tucson Tattoo Expo shows the rest of America to how much artistic talent there is within Tucson, and it brings some outside talent to Tucson as well, so that regional styles are represented. The expo offers an art gallery that displays painting, sculpture, fine art, and commercial art in order to present the public with the diverse styles and backgrounds of all artists. Many tattoo artists started in fine art, animation, graffiti, and/or commercial art.

“There’s a lot of really talented artists in this area, and because we are kind of like a big city dressed up as a small town, they don’t get the exposure of cities like Phoenix or LA.” Lewis says, “In addition to giving local artists exposure, we’re exposing Tucsonans and educating them to let them know there’s almost nothing you can’t do with a tattoo machine now.”

Tattoo Talent, Local and National

10151404_622538287834593_7357047453351383321_nLewis is selective about which artists make it into the event, there’s a screening process and although he keeps it mostly local, he brings a bit of high-end talent from all over. Tommy Montoya, who owns Klockwork Tattoo Club in L.A. and who starred on the television series NY Ink, will be one of the national artists present at the Expo.

Keeping it local also means high-end talent sitting right under your nose in Tucson that you may not even know about. There’s one local artist with a background in fine art and animation who owns a tattoo shop right on 4th Avenue, and has never advertised, because he doesn’t need to. There are enough folks who commission him well in advance to have the chance for a spiritual transformation via the artistic and personal process of tattooing under the gun of the character developer for Shrek, and many other characters you’ve seen in films like Jurassic Park and Men in Black. Philip Felix and a few of his crew from Red Sky Tattoo will join the Tucson Tattoo Expo this year for the first time, which is a treat for Tucson.

The Tucson Tattoo Expo is an indoor and outdoor event. Tattoos and contests take place in the Ball Room. Outdoors you will find artist booths, tee-shirt vendors, food vendors, and educational booths. Kids will have the opportunity to get temporary tattoos. Parents and their children can get a first hand glimpse into the culture of tattooing, which goes much deeper than surface level TV shows or generic tattoo shops may suggest. It’s an opportunity to learn something new.

Beyond Tattoos

540528_458591654210254_977309832_nFans of vintage fashion will surely enjoy the Kustome Kulture Car Show and the Tattoo Pin-Up Contest, both happening on Saturday. The pin-up contest will be hosted by international pin-up model Kandy K, who will be the DJ for the event. Those who like cutting edge fashion will surely enjoy the Razorz Edge Fashion Show on Friday.

Guests will have the chance to see collaborative art in action when artists team up for a graffiti piece on Friday and a fine art fusion event on Sunday. These events feature artists who work together on one canvass in rotation to create a shared design.

For those who like contests, the Expo weekend is packed with them. For competitive types, you can enter a contest on the day of, there’s no pre-registration and anyone can compete. First place winners in each category get a custom made first place trophy, bragging rights, promotion and in some cases, cash.

The Tucson Tattoo Expo supports and features as many locals as possible. Most of the artists and vendors are local, including Razorz Edge, Villain Clothing, Anita’s Mosaics, and Running with Scissors. Lewis believes in supporting small, independent businesses and is happy to promote “locals supporting locals.” He also feels the out-of-towners support the local economy by visiting hotels and restaurants, and Lewis will filter some of that to The Hut on 4th Avenue, where an after-hours party will take place on Saturday March 28 featuring local music. Admission to The Hut is FREE with Expo wristband.

Friday, March 27th 4pm-11pm:

10660239_678040528932031_5664664665080956361_n6pm – Art Fusion

7pm – Tattoo contests in Aztec, Traditional, and Color Realism

8pm – The Razorz Edge Fashion Show

9pm – Flash contest (Best Color, & Black & Grey)

10pm – Best of Day Contest

Saturday, March 28th 11am – 11pm:

11am-5pm – Kustom Kulture Car Show

4pm – Tattoo Contest (Portrait and Oriental)

6pm – Tattoo Contest (Small Color and Small Black & Grey)

7pm – Tattooed Pin-Up Contest

8pm – Tattoo Contest (Large Color and Large Black & Grey)

9pm – A Pound of Flesh “Tattoo Fusion” Contest

10:30pm – Best of Day Contest

Sunday, March 29th 11am – 7pm:

2pm – Art Fusion

3pm – Best Unique Piercing Contest

4pm – Tattoo Contest (Chest, Sleeve & Backpiece)

6pm – Best of Day Contest and Best of Show Contest

First place trophies for all contests at the Tucson tattoo Expo are hand crafted with care by expo founder Jon Lewis.

First place trophies for all contests at the Tucson tattoo Expo are hand crafted with care by expo founder Jon Lewis.

Check out the Tucson Tattoo Expo this year for all that it has to offer. It’s an opportunity to support locals while gazing upon many of Tucson’s most talented artists, as well as some of America’s favorites.

While you’re in Downtown for the weekend there are a few hot spots around the Hotel Tucson City Center. One such recommendation is to follow Granada south and head west on Congress St. to get to the Mercado San Agustin Plaza (at 100 S. Avenida del Convento) where you can grab just about anything you want from a latte, to a home cooked meal, to a taste of wine, to a souvenir. The Sun Link modern streetcar can take you there. The streetcar can also take you east, into the heart of Downtown where good eats and hand crafted beverages abound.

Enjoy all of what Downtown has to offer over your Tucson Tattoo Expo weekend this month. If it’s been a while since you’ve been Downtown, this is the perfect opportunity to visit a new restaurant or an old favorite, while scoping out Tucson’s amazing art scene.