The Journey isn’t over: Keep Artisan Alive!

Published On April 9, 2015 | By Jenna Moen | The Arts

artisanIn 2011, Mel and Jason Angst purchased an abandoned storefront in Garfield on Penn Ave and transformed it into the Artisan Tattoo Gallery. In an up-and-coming neighborhood, their goal for Artisan Tattoo was to stimulate business and communal activity as it fostered the dreams of local artists.

And for four years, that’s exactly what it did. Mel and Jason collaborated with talented local artists Nathan Mould, Sara Eve Rivera, Josh Suchoza, and Barnsey, giving them the opportunity to jump into the career they always wanted. The artists attracted a loyal crew of customers that continued to expand each year. Check out their work and bios, and you’ll see how truly tasteful, diverse, and intricate they are with the work that they put forth.

The first floor of Artisan is a gallery featuring local and global artists of multiple mediums from tattoo to fine art. It’s also a space for local nonprofit meetings, educational art classes, and live painting sessions. In addition, Artisan also does piercings, and sells clothing, prints, jewelry, art, and gifts.

jason angst

Tattoo by Jason Angst

The business was running smoothly until they faced a major road block when a huge construction project on Penn Ave demolished the road right in front of the Artisan shop, making it more difficult for customers to see, and much more difficult to access. The construction, which was supposed to last only six months, turned into a tormenting eighteen-month ordeal. Trying to access Artisan Tattoo was like navigating a maze of pot holes, rubble, arrows, and detour signs, leading confused customers astray.

Right when the road reopened, Artisan was hit with another set-back, but this one was far more paralyzing. The area’s new building inspector assigned them a truck load of to-do’s that had to be completed in six months, or they’d turn back into an empty storefront.

In order for Artisan to remain open, it now needs to install a three-story fire escape and three bathrooms that meet ADA standards. And getting a loan from a bank has been near impossible; tattoo parlors are red-flag businesses for banks, and residing in an economically depressed area makes it that much harder. However, the Artisan family refused to let their dreams go down the chute, so they launched an Indiegogo campaign called Keep Artisan Alive. Hard work is not unfamiliar to these artists, who have put in 80-hour weeks, planned fundraising events, auctioned off tattoos, and donated their own pocket money. The phrase “I’m taking a day off” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. Over the past month, they have received an “overwhelming amount of support” from friends, families, and strangers, said Mel Angst, who had help pop up from people in her life she hadn’t heard from in 20 years. For that, they are grateful.


afterThe Indiegogo campaign contributes to more than just renovations; other donations will go towards their current livelihoods and future plans, such as a cafe. All the equipment for a cafe featuring specialty coffee drinks is already good-to-go; they simply just need to keep the space. Another plan is to implement a hostel to foster the traveling arts community. The potential for this space combined with Artisan’s striking vision is key to opening a world of art and business support and development in a budding neighborhood.

Despite being one of the top 10 Indiegogo campaigns of all time in Pittsburgh, they aren’t even at the halfway point. So far, they have raised $30,026 out of the $87,200 they need. The first floor bathroom is finished, as well as the foundation for the fire escape, but there is still more to go. Mel Angst has defined the journey as an “emotional roller-coaster,” but the most important thing is to keep the momentum going.

In the interest of keeping up momentum, Artisan is hosting a dance party called “Together We Rise” tonight, Friday, April 10, located at the Artisan Tattoo Gallery (5001 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15224).  The event will feature DJ James Gyre spinning an eclectic mix of dance-able jams; cold, refreshing brews from Gentlemen Brew Company; and tarot card readings from Michael Eleleth and The eyes of the Oracle, Nick Noir.

There will also be food trucks, sweet silent auction items such as gorgeous handmade metal jewelry by local artist Mod Evil, a 50/50 raffle, and more to be announced! There is a $10 suggested donation to attend the event.

More opportunities to donate are through Sullen Clothing, who put together an Artisan benefit tee called “Angst Badge,” which features an illustrated print on the front by Jason Angst. If you pre-order the tee, you’ll be entered to win a free original painting by Jason.

Another great way to help out these local artists is to donate to their Indiegogo page, and to keep spreading awareness via word-of-mouth and hashtags, #KeepArtisanAlive and #OpenOnPenn!

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