'Fighting the fight': Murray parlor removing hate tattoos for free

Tattoo artist Jeremiah Swift works to transform Nazi symbols into a floral design at the Gallery X Art Collective in Murray on Wednesday. The gallery has offered to transform hate- or gang-related tattoos for free, and the business has received calls from across the nation.

MURRAY

An area tattoo parlor made national news earlier this month when it offered via social media to cover up images that are hate- or gang-related for free.

The June 7 Facebook post by Gallery X Art Collective of Murray was shared 392 times through Wednesday morning and was featured on CNN. There has also been an offer to make the parlor’s effort into a TV show.

The reaction has been overwhelming, and with the year-old business conforming to COVID-19 guidelines, it will keep them busy for months — even years — to come.

Ryun King, a tattoo artist and body piercer at Gallery X, said the idea first came when he and tattoo artist Jeremiah Swift noticed that several people posted on social media that they wanted to get rid of racial tattoos they had later come to regret.

“All of the protests, Black Lives Matter — all of the stuff that’s happening to the nation,” King said. “We’re sitting at home, we (couldn’t) open the shop. We finally get to open the shop for a week, and we need to do something to help. We need to do our part — something — to help the community out.

“We’re tattooers — we weren’t out on the front lines picketing — so this is just our way that we’re able to just do a little bit for the community.”

King said some people who are seeing social change come about nationwide feel regret about getting tattoos that foment hate and spark anger, including Nazi and Confederate symbols.

CNN reported that the first person to take advantage of the offer was Jennifer Tucker of Paducah, who had a Confederate flag redone. She told the network that there were no black students in her school and everyone got Confederate tattoos, so she jumped on the bandwagon and got one herself.

“She had her first tattoo when she was 15,” King said. “She’s a mother of two now.”

Tucker, who moved to Paducah after graduating from high school, said she regretted getting the tattoo. A friend told her about the Gallery X offer, and she jumped on the opportunity.

“They want to change; they want to be better,” King said of the people who want their tattoos changed. “The whole world is changing right now. Everybody’s views are really coming to light.

“People are understanding that tolerance is the way to go. Hate is completely a past idea or notion, and they have all these reminders of that from the past and they want to get rid of it for themselves and, a lot of times, for their families and loved ones.”

King said hundreds of people have left messages with the Murray business to have tattoos reimagined.

“I had a guy that messaged the shop and said he had this racial tattoo for 40 years and said he hasn’t been a racist for 20,” he said. “That’s very intense to hear something like that. Some of these are beyond old. Some of these are 20, 30 years old or even longer.

“There’s old tattoo flash (designs that become tattoos) from the ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s that have Mickey Mouse and a swastika next to it on the flash that they are so used to seeing.”

King said people have contacted the shop from Indiana, Florida, even Canada who said they wanted to come have a tattoo redone.

A woman came into the gallery Wednesday to have a Nazi swastika embossed with an SS emblem obscured. She asked not to be identified and said she has had the tattoo for a few years.

“It was a thing that kinda happened,” she said. “(I came to have it redone because) it shouldn’t be there. I had the opportunity to take care of an issue.”

Swift was given a photo of the woman’s tattoo before she came for her appointment and created a floral design to superimpose on the symbols of hate, turning it into a tattoo that the woman could show more.

King said the idea to do the service for free goes along with contributing to the current movement.

“We don’t really tattoo to become rich, because you’re not,” he said. “For us, this is a big regret we see with people. It’s fantastic that people want to change for the better. This is just our little bit of nudge that we get to help with that.

“We just decided to do it for free. We didn’t know there was going to be thousands of people that were going to get into this and it was going to hit worldwide.”

King said that Gallery X reached out to other tattoo artists to help out with the workload. Ultimate Tattoo Supply is helping Gallery X with supply costs, enabling the art collective to fulfill its mission.

“The only thing we’re really donating is our time,” he said. “You’ve got people doing that all day every day in the protests, fighting the fight.”