By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — Fall is in the air and that means that Calgary will soon flourish with the colours of foliage and flesh as the international tattoo community once again converges for the Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festival. Celebrating its 11th year as a Mecca of artistry and showmanship, the world-renowned event has become an annual pilgrimage for tattoo enthusiasts from both sides of the counter.
What makes Calgary such a prime destination for talented entrepreneurs and inkers from around the planet? According to festival founder and organizer Steve Peace, a big part of his job is evaluating similar gatherings and raising the bar. Years of touring the globe as a featured tattoo artist have given him special insight when it comes to ensuring that visiting artists, guests and exhibitors have the ideal experience.
“October is the perfect time for us,” Peace confirms. “Typically, Fridays at tattoo conventions are dead and the artists are all bored, waiting for the weekend crowds to arrive. We wanted to change things for the better and put Friday on par with Sunday in terms of foot traffic. We made good on that idea by starting up our exclusive ‘Adults Only Fridays.’ The response has been terrific! This time around we’ll be featuring some special burlesque entertainers, contortionists and body-painters for our over-18 attendees to enjoy. The whole evening will definitely have a more mature vibe to it.”
Equally resilient by the light of day, the exhibition of sub-dermal skill is anything but underground. An enduring art form that has cross-generational and multi-cultural appeal, tattooing has become as commonplace as body-piercings and rainbow-hued hairdos.
Striking a balance between entertainment and education, the 2014 instalment of the Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festival will shine a limelight on the abundance of Canadian talent available to would-be human canvases. Life will imitate art as crowd-pleasers – including TV celebrity-artists Chris Nunez, Jasmine Rodriguez and Hannah Aitchison – will be on hand to meet-and-greet the public alongside Sons of Anarchy actors Kim Coates and Theo Rossi.
“The thing is that there are so many amazing tattoo artists working in the industry now,” says Peace. “There are really 58 individual tattoo shops in Alberta alone. Half of our goal in putting on a tattoo festival is to show people what’s available in their own backyard. This year we’ll be spreading and taking over the BMO Centre – Hall A and the Stampede Corral – with some 330 artists and 300 per cent more vendors than last year. We’ll also be holding a daily scavenger hunt worth $1,000 and, of course, our ever-popular tattoo contest.”
A groundbreaking first outing as an official not-for-profit for the decade-old festival, which now operates under the auspices of ABP Cultural Body Art Promotions, the stimulating three-day attraction has adopted a “pay-it-forward” business model that directly supports Five Dollar Planet and other grassroots charities. All the more reason to feel good about getting your ink on.
The Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festival runs at BMO Centre from October 18-19, as well as an adult-only night on October 17.AB, Alberta, BMO Centre, tattoo, tattoo culture, The Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festival