Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Donate and Get a Free Tattoo

We're inviting you and a few others of the region's most read bloggers to ask for your consultation on an initiative that CultureWorks is launching in January. ~John Bryan

And that's how I ended up at Positive Vibe Cafe for lunch today. I'd met CultureWorks president John Bryan at one of the Gallery 5 after 5 events and thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with him. I knew we were kindred souls at the tarantula lecture when we both wrote down, "Don't eat me. Let's mate" at the same moment.

When I got the invitation, I admit I was curious, too, about what this cultural initiative might be. And I always look forward to meeting new people, so that was appealing. Free lunch didn't hurt either. I RSVP'd at once.

It turned out to be a most satisfying get-together. Lunch was a buffet of fire-roasted tomato bisque and a selection of vegetarian wraps and assorted Christmas cookies. The bisque, covered in grated cheese, had a lovely texture and fresh tomato taste, warming me up in no time (unfortunately, my cold hand had already shaken all the hands in the room).

With no real idea what was inside the selection of wraps, I grabbed the gooiest, cheesiest looking one which turned out to be full of avocado, tomato, pesto mayo and cheese. It was a most excellent choice, despite its contents being a complete surprise.

After lunch and while the cookies were being passed, John began explaining their truly brilliant idea. For a donation of $150 or more to CultureWorks in 2011, the donor will receive a free tattoo. Oh, yes, and a lapel pin, but that's been done before. But a tattoo? That's a hell of a donation souvenir.

Being CultureWorks, they had done their research on tattooing, one of the very oldest art forms, and chosen the oldest possible design they were able to find. It comes from one of the many tattoos discovered on a 60,000-year old body that was unearthed. It's small, a tad bigger than a quarter and simple. But it's a tattoo.

The campaign will kick off with ten well-known but un-inked Richmonders receiving the tattoo. And not just any locals, but hopefully some of the most unlikely people imaginable. Notable, but ink virgins.

And they're taking suggestions from the public about who should be in that top ten. We brainstormed more than a few ideas: suggestions of Mayor Dwight Jones, Pam Reynolds, Trani, and any Ukrop all got enthusiastic support.

Both CultureWorks president John Bryan and board chair Brooks Smith will get the tattoo (both were ink-free today). Bryan said, "And I'm getting it done in a place where people other than my wife can see it." Smith promised the same. Now that's cultural devotion.

The idea is that people will get the tattoos as a way of saying that they're committed to the importance of a vibrant cultural scene in Richmond. Committing to the tattoo is an analogy for committing to RVA's cultural growth. I have to say, I'm terribly impressed with the idea.

As the nation's third most inked city, finding willing donors who want to be inked in the name of culture will certainly be easier than, say, it would be in conservative Washington. I can almost seeing it become a badge of honor amongst the culturally devoted. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

Ink for the arts! Richmond just keeps getting better and better.


  1. What does the tattoo look like? I'm curious.

  2. Don't know, but they promised us a picture shortly. I'll post the link as soon as I get it.

    Are you considering a tattoo for the sake of culture?