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When tattoos and graffiti meet coffee

Four local artists are ready “to leave a mark”

By Rachel Sankey

A piece tattoo artist Micah Gunderson worked on for Coffee Wizardz. His works will also be on display at the exhibition. Submitted Photos

When the lives of Jake Phelps, Beau Thomas, Sam Fisher and Micah Gunderson came together, the artistic quartet said they realized they needed to create their own exhibition.

“There was a (skateboard) art show in Manitowoc that Beau and I were going to go to; we both had something lined up (to show),” Phelps said. “It was in early spring of this year. Beau ended up not being able to make it, but I decided to go anyway. That’s where I met Micah. We found out we both knew Beau, and then we were like, ‘Well, this art show is cool. Let’s do our own art show.’”

From there, he said they brought in Fisher – Gunderson’s protege – from Northern Tide Tattoo, as well as Thomas.

Phelps said the plan was to create a graffiti and tattoo art exhibition to showcase all four talents – Phelps and Thomas on the graffiti end, and Fisher and Gunderson on the tattoo end.

“(Micah) came up with the name ‘To Leave a Mark,’ being that graffiti and tattoos both leave marks,” he said.

The space

When it came to deciding on a location to host the exhibit, Phelps said Gunderson reached out to his friends Sam Brown and Chris Christen at Coffee Wizardz to see if they would be interested in hosting the event. Gunderson said Brown and Christen were immediately on board.

“We went and checked (Coffee Wizardz) out,” Phelps said. “Their lobby is pretty small, so we decided to kind of break barriers and go past the kitchen into their back area. So people have to go through their prep area to get to (the art). We thought it was kind of cool, making people uncomfortable by walking through their kitchen. It’s different.”

Since the setup will be a smaller space, Phelps said an option for live music wouldn’t be feasible.

That’s where Sam Brown comes in.

“Sam’s going to have a table set up where he can DJ,” Phelps said. “So we will have tunes by Wax Addict. I believe he’ll just be playing records.”

The artists

While the graffiti and tattoo art exhibition allows for the four artists to collectively showcase their work in one show, Phelps said their background of getting into their respective mediums are different.

One of Jake Phelps’ pieces. Phelps’ paintings and illustrations can be seen around local businesses in Green Bay and more.

For Phelps, he said his curiosity for design started in middle school, where he drew influence from the street and skateboarding culture.

He said he looked up to artists such as Andy Warhol, Zephyr and local graffiti artists.

In 2005, Phelps said he started painting on train cars, and by 2019 had started up his own art collective called LOST AND FOUND – with a goal to facilitate collaboration between artists and musicians.

Now, he illustrates posters, menus, murals and more for local businesses.

Thomas said he also fell in love with graffiti during his middle school years at 14. He said he started by working in sketchbooks, and then branched out into painting bridges and trains.

However, his creativity got the best of him, and when he had his second court case for graffiti, Thomas said he decided to change directions and started his own mural business, Trackside Design.

Now, Thomas’ art can be seen on buildings and walls all over Green Bay.

Beau Thomas’ graffiti piece, titled ‘Brick City.’ Thomas’ work can be seen all around Green Bay.

Fisher and Gunderson’s speciality lies within tattoo art.

Gunderson’s introduction into tattooing stands as a similar story to Phelps – with a heavy influence in skating, as well as art and music.

He said his inspiration also comes from his travels and the scenery around the Midwest.

Gunderson said his shop, Northern Tide Tattoo, pays homage to his muses – “the wilderness of Michigan’s upper peninsula, and the pebbled shores of the Great Lakes.”

Fisher said his tattooing journey started when he drew people on the walls of his childhood home.

The artist said his drawings created a desire to connect with people, and combined with his love of music and action sports, Fisher said his tattoo career was a natural transition.

He said his work “combines an undeniable Midwestern ethos with the bold history of American traditional tattooing.”

The tattoo artist said he was mentored by Gunderson.

Examples of Sam Fisher’s work. Fisher was brought up under the mentorship of Gunderson at Northern Tide Tattoo.

The exhibition

The exhibition lasts from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, at Coffee Wizardz (536 Greene Ave).

Coffee will be available for purchase while guests view the artwork.

Phelps said the exhibit won’t be separated by artist. Instead, the four will display their pieces in ways that complement each other.

Once guests grab a coffee (if they’d like), he said they are able to view the works gallery style, and roam as they please.

Looking at the bigger picture, Phelps said he hopes to grow and work with more people out of the event.

“I think my goal that I’m trying to get out of this, and future things, is collaboration,” he said. “Expanding collaborations between genres. Beau and I could have done our own thing – just graffiti – and there’s definitely been many tattoo shows. But I think the clashing of styles makes it a little more interesting.”

Rachel Sankey is the editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

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