Opening Minds

Lindsay Sainlar

They used to play with remote-control hydraulic cars and talk of dreams – dreams of owning a combination tattoo parlor/art gallery that would change the way people looked at tattoos.

They wanted to create an environment where anyone would feel at ease, with couches that would make people feel like they were in their grandmother’s living room.

So they decided to keep the tattoo artwork in binders and save the wall space for paintings and photographs.

They made floor plan after floor plan, attempting to create the perfect setting for an art/tattoo gallery. ?

And as of Nov. 1, after years of planning and saving, the dreams of Madisonville senior Jack Hinton and Bowling Green resident Ryan Miller became reality.

Their business, Open Mind, now exists in Campus Plaza next to Zaxby’s and Red Barn Liquors.

“I wanted to do something different,” Miller said. “I didn’t want to stay in school.”

Open Mind is a two-story gallery featuring a front room reserved for tattooing and a case for pottery and a downstairs gallery where paintings and photographs by Western students and Bowling Green residents are displayed. ?

“We’re into art, and tattooing is an art that is uncommon to most people,” Hinton said. “We just want to make this tattoo store a little different.”

In the first two weeks the business was open, four pieces of artwork were sold.

Hinton, who is an art and graphic design double major, has been coaxing fellow art and photography patrons into submitting their pieces. He plans to showcase new pieces every month.

“We’re about supporting the students,” Hinton said. “There’s also a lot of not-for-sale things here.”

Most of the paintings, photographs and pottery are on sale. Prices range from $5 to $1,000 – amounts that Hinton said are reasonably priced due to size and materials used.

Anyone can submit their artwork or photographs, Hinton said.

“We’ve got a lot of space, so we’ll hang it up,” Hinton said.

Art department head Kim Chalmers has already visited the store. He said the art gallery is a good idea because it allows students to get involved in selling and displaying their artwork.

He said he views the tattoo shop and the gallery as two separate entities that joined together.

“I think the public should give it a shot,” Chalmers said. “It’s a very difficult business to start. Hopefully they will have the opportunity to develop a clientele”

Hinton and Miller met in high school through attending parties and hanging out with mutual friends.

They caught up with each other after Hinton started at Western, and Miller moved to Bowling Green after working as the head design engineer for a company in Evansville, Ind. ?

“This is pretty much our home even though we weren’t born here,” Miller said.

More than two years ago Miller said he frequented Chris Grant’s Topper’s Fine Line Tattoo shop with friends. He got to know the tattoo artists, who in turn asked Miller if he wanted to learn the skill. ?

After years of training and influence from Grant and Miller’s friend Jess Casson, Miller now does the tattooing at Open Mind and is currently coaching Hinton in the art.

“I make a lot more money doing this than I would if I was a design engineer,” Miller said.

Miller got his first tattoo at 18 and has added at least 15 more pieces of permanent ink to his body. He gave Hinton his first tattoo when Hinton was 22, a design that included a horseshoe, a clover and the lucky number seven.

Hinton counts his tattoos by the hours he spends in the inking chair, estimating his collection to be somewhere around 50.

With their dream business finally in operation, Hinton and Miller are opening visitors’ minds to artistic expression – no matter the medium.

“I still say I can’t believe this place is ours,” Hinton said. ?”It feels too nice for us.”

Reach Lindsay Sainlar at [email protected]