Empowerment Through Ink: Striving for Equality in Tattoos

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UNC graduate student and tattoo artist Ann-Adele Blassingame aims to cultivate a welcoming space of education and empowerment within the northern Colorado art scene.

Art is a powerful medium capable of conveying complex themes and messages and has been a part of human existence since the beginning. Human beings are similarly complicated, each with their own unique beauty and flaws. Ann-Adele Blassingame aims to merge art and humanity through their work, treating the human body as a canvas of stories capable of housing further meaning through tattoos.

Blassingame, a graduate student in business marketing at the University of Northern Colorado, grew up in Thornton and has always had a passion for art and social justice.

As a Black non-binary queer person, Blassingame has faced racism and homophobia throughout their life and has continued to face these issues within the art space in Greeley. They noted that the tattoo space can be especially hateful.

“Even being in certain shops, the environment is just very unwelcoming,” Blassingame said, the hum of their computer filling the air.

Their own negative experiences within the world of tattooing and the anti-Black practices of many tattoo artists have been significant sources of motivation for Blassingame to pursue the field. Blassingame pointed out how tattoos are perceived differently depending on the color of one’s skin. White people with tattoos are often seen as “cool,” while Black people with tattoos are often seen as “threatening.”

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“It’s so aggravating because I got like floral Hello Kitty-looking a– tattoos on myself,” Blassingame said, laughing at the absurdity of the stereotype.

Blassingame wants to change the narrative surrounding tattoos on Black skin and how Black skin is viewed as “harder” to tattoo due to a lack of education within the tattoo community.

“All of this ink and all of this color can look beautiful on our skin too, no matter what shade it is,” Blassingame said.

Blassingame is also a member of Fast At Your Door, or FAYD, an art collective comprised of Blassingame, Nikaiya Lawson, Hunter Rensink, and Lee Reid. FAYD is dedicated to using art to make social change.

“It’s about coming at art with a social justice lens and understanding how art can impact communities and how it can help problems,” Blassingame said.

In 2022, Blassingame co-curated an art movement called Black is Punk with Lawson, a UNC graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Design from Las Vegas. The movement was about providing a platform to Black artists within the Greeley area.

“Black people are more than what the media can profit off of,” Lawson said.

Black is Punk was a learning experience for both Blassingame and Lawson as they faced the challenges involved in putting on an art exhibit. Blassingame smiled as they recalled the challenging process of going into classrooms with Lawson to promote the exhibit and encourage students of color to display their artwork.

Lawson was grateful to be able to collaborate with Blassingame on the project and to have a partner to bounce ideas off of.

“They really helped me balance everything and bring a clearer perspective to what Black is Punk could be,” Lawson said.

While the process may have been challenging, the results spoke for themselves according to Rensink, a FAYD member and UNC graduate from Thornton.

“It was a great place for a bunch of Black artists to get together and celebrate how far they’ve come and to get connected with each other,” Rensink said.

With everything they’ve learned throughout their experiences, Blassingame aims to open their own tattoo shop in the future that focuses on education and empowerment. They hope to break down the stigma surrounding tattoos on black skin and to continue to empower black voices.

“I want their stories to be uplifted, and their names to be uplifted, and their art to be uplifted,” Blassingame said.

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