Memphis’ first custom tattoo studio, Underground Art, found its home in the Cooper-Young neighborhood more than 20 years ago. Angela Russell and David Evans opened up shop at 2287 Young Avenue in 1993. Back then, the neighborhood was an incredibly affordable place for a start-up business. But that wasn’t its only allure.
“There was something so off-the-beaten-path that really drew us,” Russell says. In the early days, Underground Art shared the area with Meristem (a feminist bookstore), Last Chance Records, Puss N Boots (a goth clothing store), Java Cabana, and only a handful of restaurants. The studio’s family of artists and eccentrics fit right in.
Today at Underground Art, you’ll find some of the city’s most talented skin illustrators, whose artistic styles are as diverse as their clientele. Through the years, they’ve inked art on a few celebrities: record-breaking goalkeeper Tim Howard; renowned actress Christina Ricci; members of the hip-hop group Goodie Mob; and funk-ska-punk rock fusion band Fishbone. For those wanting to express their personalities and passions through tattoos, Underground Art is one of the top-rated places in Memphis to do so.
The house-turned-tattoo shop is homey and inviting, its walls adorned with some of Russell’s photography and art created by past and present tattoo artists. The folks who work there are “socially conscious, book-loving nerds” (their words, but we promise, they’re the cool kind of nerds).
“The shop is my home away from home; I’ve grown up here. I met my husband here,” Russell says. And it has become equally as special to its patrons. “They share their happiness and their heartbreak with us. We offer respect and a sympathetic ear.” (And a little pain/art therapy. To see Underground Art’s artist portfolios, visit makingmommaproud.com.)
“The sense of community over commerce and the rich and varied collection of residents and businesses is what has always made the neighborhood so wonderful,” says Russell. Much has changed through the years, but her dream for Underground Art and its place in Cooper-Young hasn’t. “We want to remain a community that is true to itself, one that celebrates diversity and art and connection.”