Tattooing is art, plain and simple. But for John Conn, it runs skin deep.
“My son is a tattoo artist and it’s creative art he’s making,” said Conn. “I never understood who gets to dub what is and what’s not art. But if tattooing isn’t fine art, what is?”
Conn and his son Mike are co-founders and organizers of the Savannah Tattoo Festival, set to kick off its third annual event this weekend.
It celebrates all aspects of the tattooing industry and welcomes talent from across the country, said Conn. The event will feature more than 200 tattoo artists, live music, vendors, hot rods, motorcycles, murals, pin-up girls, contests, sideshows and suspension shows.
During the event, interested attendees have the option of mingling with tattoo artists and/or having work performed on-site at the convention center. The cost of each tattoo is in addition to the entrance fee and is negotiated between customer and artist. Note that many artists book fast and the best way to secure a tattoo at the festival is to set appointments with artists before the event.
Conn said there’s a special community feel surrounding the art of tattooing, and the energy of the event is obvious walking through door.
“Tattoos are a form of communication,” said Conn. “They tell a story. When you get so many tattoo enthusiasts in one room, it’s a very creative and supportive environment.”
The event has grown over the past three years, and is expected to get larger each year. Conn wants to grow slowly, building on what works. And as a father, maintaining an all-ages, family-friendly atmosphere is important to him.
As such, the festival will feature several new and returning contests and activities, including the Kids Temporary Tattoo Contest and Best Booth. The kids' contest (ages 12 and younger) will take place Sunday, with trophies going to the top three winners.
Also highlighted this year is the Miss Savannah Pin-Up Girl Contest, where participants show off their pin-up inspired garb of the '50’s, '60s, and '70s to compete for top prize ($2,500 in total prizes, including $1,000 cash); and Carnival of Curiosity, a fully scalable immersion performance that encompasses Vaudeville, burlesque and the historical sideshow acts.
The Savannah Tattoo Festival is “more than tattoos; it is a place to celebrate diversity and community,” said Cann. He believes the combined events create a unique experience that educates, informs, and inspires the creative energy fused by tattooing and fine art.