Over the past few years, our team has been discussing the idea of hosting an art event. Finally, in April, while searching for grants, we stumbled upon an opportunity offered by the Hamilton Arts Council for Hamilton Arts Week 2023. We seized the chance to introduce the art of tattoos to our community, recognizing that it is often overlooked as a subcategory in the art world. With the grant secured, we had just one month to bring our vision to life.
Getting to Work
Anita and I took charge of organizing the event, leveraging my event planning experience and her expertise in tattooing. We understood that each tattoo represents both valuable art and personal expression. While I handled budgeting, marketing, planning, layout, and catering, Anita focused on designing the gallery layout, arranging talks, creating temporary tattoo designs, and recruiting artists. Tony and Lisa joined forces to help us execute the event flawlessly. Additionally, we received invaluable assistance from Amy, our talented brand designer, who was also working on MUKA's redesign at the time.
Collaborating with Amy
Working closely with Amy, the owner of Together Studios and our brand designer, we ensured that our flyers were family-friendly. It was crucial for us to bridge the gap between the tattoo community and the general public, dismantling the stigma that often divides pro and anti-tattooists. We opted for vibrant, contrasting colors to catch people's attention and emphasized the family-friendly nature of our event, including raffles and refreshments. Thanks to the efficient printing services of Impressive Printing in Hamilton, we received our beautifully designed flyers the very next day, ready to be distributed.
Spreading the Word
During the following week, we hit the streets on the hottest days of the month, walking up and down busy areas, engaging with shops and asking them to display our posters. I must admit, I felt a slight hesitation when approaching shops, as tattooing still carries negative connotations for some. However, the overall experience was positive, with most shops enthusiastically accepting our posters. Alongside physical outreach, we made use of online platforms such as Facebook Events and Eventbrite to reach a wider audience.
Fine-Tuning the Event
Over the next few weeks, our main focus was brainstorming creative ideas to ensure the event's success. We delved into minor details, such as setting up an efficient temporary tattoo station and deciding between presentations on boards or monitors. These seemingly small decisions carried weight, as they would impact the budget and the overall flow of the event, as well as guest engagement.
Working with a Tight Budget
With a limited budget, we were determined not to overspend in specific categories. We sought out cost-effective alternatives to traditional methods, aiming to stretch our resources as far as possible. For instance, instead of investing in frames for portable walls, we secured generous donations from Sealed Art, a local frame shop. They provided us with 6-foot-tall dense cardboard, which we hung from the rafters, reinforcing them with zip ties and duct tape. The art pieces were then attached using trusty Alien Tape, becoming my newfound favorite tool. Each small 1/2 inch square could effortlessly support up to 15 pounds of weight, allowing us to securely hang the frames while staying within budget. This creative approach allowed us to create an attractive gallery space at a fraction of the anticipated cost. It was a definite win!
The Final Stretch
In the last two weeks leading up to the event, Anita focused on ensuring that all the artists had their pieces ready for display. She also prepared her informative sessions on Tattoo Styles Through History and Tattoo Culture Through History. Although we encountered some challenges toward the end, overall, things seemed to be falling into place smoothly.
The Event Day
On June 10, 2023, our first tattoo event was hosted in Hamilton.
Right up until the very end, we anticipated potential disasters. However, much to our pleasant surprise, everything unfolded exactly as planned. The event was a resounding success, attracting approximately 65 guests who stayed longer than expected, genuinely intrigued by our event and its mission. We managed to stay slightly under budget and used the surplus as tips for the artists who graciously dedicated their time to help make the event a triumph. Would we do it all over again? Absolutely!
Looking back, we realized that we should have highlighted the "Art" portion of our poster more prominently, rather than the "Tattoo" aspect. Tony and I were sitting outside the venue, gazing at our sign from afar, and it dawned on us that it could be mistaken for a walk-in tattoo shop sign. In fact, some individuals were disappointed when they discovered that we were not offering tattoos on the spot. This oversight might have also confused others who only noticed the word "tattoo" and missed the reference to our art show. This subtle change could have made all the difference in attracting the right audience. Lessons learned for next time!