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Tattoos for Schools

Article Published: Jun. 28, 2012 | Modified: Jun. 28, 2012
Tattoos for Schools

From left, Huxley Sinanian and Griffin Arquette hold up the flash sheet their class created and donated to Speakeasy Tattoo Company, which hosts an annual fundraiser called Tattoos for Schools, with proceeds benefiting area elementary art programs.

Photo by Michael Bragg

Like tattoos, good deeds are permanent reminders of something and are never forgotten.

Speakeasy Tattoo Company’s owner, Greg Kinnamon, has held a fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day called Tattoos for Schools ever since the shop opened on West King Street more than four years ago.

On that day, he, his employees and tattoo artists who know him and volunteer their time to tattoo residents of Boone and the High Country with shamrocks and four leaf clovers for only $10, and all the money goes back to elementary school art programs.

“We decided to do Tattoos for Schools because we realized that there was just a real shortfall in budget for art supplies in the elementary schools, which are used in every classroom for everything … and everything is taught with some sort of art supply in elementary schools,” Kinnamon said.

“After a little brainstorming, we came up with the idea, and Tattoos for Schools was born. We do what we do best: tattoos in return for money.”

In the past four years, Kinnamon said they’ve been able to raise nearly $15,000 for schools.

One of the recipients this year was Two Rivers Community School in Boone, which received $1,000 of the $4,000 collected last St. Patrick’s Day from the fundraiser.

Huxley Sinanian and Griffin Arquette, both age 11, were both in a fifth-grade art class, taught by Kelly Snider, that received the donation.

“I felt pretty amazed,” Sinanian said. “That seems awesome to me.”

While Kinnamon has done this charity every year for four years out of his own pocket, he has never asked for anything in return from the schools, just that the kids learn the importance of art.

“Just getting a pencil into a kid’s hand and giving them the opportunity to just go out, do whatever they want to do and just be free and do whatever you want, no boundaries, it’s the most powerful thing,” he said.

But this year, one of the schools gave back to the tattoo artist.

Snider’s fifth-graders drew designs for a flash sheet to be given to Kinnamon and the tattoo shop as a thank-you for the $1,000 donation. Among the drawings were flowers, tribal designs, a clown fish, dragons and other designs, including Sinanian and Arquette’s designs, a doodle of swords crossed with a flame and a tribal design, respectively.

“That flash sheet ... each little design in there is the power,” Kinnamon said. “What process this kid was thinking of when he drew these things, it blows my mind. But they could not be taken to the place in their mind that brought them to this cool design without the opportunity to sit there and be free with their pencil. That’s rad.”

In turn, Kinnamon has placed the flash sheet of designs in his shop among other flash sheets of traditional tattoo designs many of his and his employees’ customers choose from everyday.

“I feel honored, personally, because I’ve always loved these designs, and I think I was sort of going for something like them,” Arquette said.

Kinnamon offers anyone the opportunity to get a tattoo design from the flash sheet. He made the offer for the first one chosen to be free and already has a taker coming in soon, who Kinnamon said has a following of people online that he’s letting choose the fifth grade inspired image to permanently have etched onto his body.

The fundraiser is set to continue in the coming years, and Kinnamon hopes Tattoos for Schools continues to have the same success and support from the community, as well as any feedback from the kids the fundraiser benefits.

“I just want to thank them and let them know that we totally appreciate them, and we hope to collect some more of these and hope to keep working with the schools, and anybody out there who has an idea or wants to help out or feels like they want to get involved in the Tattoos for Schools with us, my door is always open.”

Speakeasy Tattoo is located at 728 W. King St. in downtown Boone and operates from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit

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