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Community Tattoo Collective creates a culture of art and philanthropy

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Art by Casey Buxton to benefit The Rainbow Center serving the LGBTQ2SA community in South Puget Sound — Courtesy photo
Art by Casey Buxton to benefit The Rainbow Center serving the LGBTQ2SA community in South Puget Sound — Courtesy photo

Art is often considered the final product of whatever method of creation the artist has chosen to engage in. To many though, it extends beyond the creation and the creator, to include the entire community the artist belongs to, especially in cities. Art cannot thrive without other people participating in it and helping in a myriad of ways to get it done.

Tattooing is no different. Every successful shop has a group of people whose patronage supports the artists. Beyond that, they often can band together to further help the community at large, independent of the art.

Electric Kitten (which received the SGN Best Tattoo Shop Award) understands this phenomenon intimately. Owner Robyn Emlen started a nonprofit in 2020 called the Community Tattoo Collective (CTC). Rachel J. Lieberman (who works as a booking manager for tattoo artists) became her colleague in the collective later that year. The two have been doing incredible work for the CTC, the artistic community, and Seattle at large for four years.

How the collective works
Every month, the CTC selects a new local nonprofit to donate to. Then, their crew (of around 50 artists and the company Coalition Tattoo Supply) donate as much as they want to any given charity each month. With no fixed donation amount, donors choose how much to give. Donations have ranged from $50 to $300 or more. This month, the nonprofit recipient is the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.

The collective has raised an astounding $178,000 over its four years of operation, an impressive $50,700 of which was donated last year to the following organizations: Q Center, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Girls on the Run Puget Sound, Real Rent Duwamish, Homies Helping Homies, Diversity Alliance Puget Sound, StolenYouth, Rainbow Center, Puget Soundkeeper, Old Dog Heaven, API Chaya, and Seattle T2P2. One hundred percent of the money donated goes directly to the charity.

Some artists who donate regularly include Adam Miller, New York [sic], Monica Amneus, Casey Buxton, Suzanna Fisher, Ashley June, Michael T. Gardner, Wil Spaedt, Nicole Roar, and Emlen herself.

The importance of community
When involving yourself in an artistic community it is important to see the needs of those you are creating art for, beyond that for art. This is especially important with regards to the charities chosen, as those affected often do not have their needs met by current legislation. Independent avenues of remedying these systems, such as artist-led nonprofits, are a powerful way of showing resistance. In this way, organizations like the Community Tattoo Collective solidify the ability of a community to take care of itself.