CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Trinidad Serrano’s idea has came a long way — and taken on a new form in the process.
The local tattoo artist and owner of The T.R.I.B.E. Zoo LLC Tattoo shop on Lincolnway in downtown was the main force behind the start of the annual 4-Ever West Tattoo Festival seven years ago, now held every year in Cheyenne as a gathering of ink artists and enthusiasts from across the United States. Back in the event’s beginnings, Serrano paid for everything merely out of a love for the craft, he said.
But last year, the City of Cheyenne reached out to Serrano and offered its assistance, pitching the idea of combining multiple events (including the tattoo festival) together, namely those the city describes as “urban arts culture and diversity,” for a weekend-long festival in the Cheyenne Depot Plaza.
And thus, the Cheyenne Culture Expo — the umbrella event to celebrate the city’s creative side and those that partake in it — was born.
From glass blowing and tattoos to an arm wrestling tournament and BMX, the event (which also goes by the name CultureX) has become a launching pad for the local arts scene after interest in it expanded following the early successes of the original tattoo festival, which was the state’s first of its kind.
The weekend before Cheyenne welcomes the world to a different kind of environment as Cheyenne Frontier Days gets underway, Serrano said he wanted to show that the city is “more than just cowboys in the west” through a celebration of its growing urban arts scene.
“With the city being involved now, they’ve helped out with some expenses,” Serrano said. “I definitely have a little more people helping get stuff done instead of just having it all down on me. … Once I put the first show on, it’s just been continuing to grow and grow and grow.”
Serrano noted that roughly 40 tattoo artists from 10 different states — the furthest of which traveled from Florida to be in Wyoming this weekend — participated in this year’s edition of the Culture Expo’s signature event by inking art pieces on patrons inside the Cheyenne Depot Museum. The tattooing started Thursday and will continue into Sunday, with Serrano praising the quality of work he’s seen from local artists despite Cheyenne’s relative small size.
However, Serrano had to get the festival off of the ground in the first place by pushing for the city to create temporary tattoo licenses for traveling artists, a sign that it is still adjusting and evolving to accomodate the interests of its residents. Still, Serrano said he finds that Cheyenne’s location is unique to those in his profession and has more to it than some outsiders may think.
“It’s real diverse,” Serrano said. “I feel like Wyoming is a central location in the United States, so we’ve got to be a little versatile on our artwork. … Wyoming’s been the Old West, real country-laden, which is cool, but it has more diversity than that.”
For evidence to that statement, Depot Plaza visitors this weekend don’t have to look very far for a collection of unique shows, contests and vendor booths. For instance, Jon Puls, the tattoo festival’s emcee, also is the president of Cheyenne’s Frontier Facial Hair Club and acted as the host of what he called an “impromptu” beard and mustache contest Saturday.
Proceeds from the friendly competition went to the Grace For 2 Brothers foundation, a Cheyenne-based nonprofit focused on suicide prevention. Even with a not-so-serious aura, the contestants’ showing off of their facial hair was for awareness on a very serious topic.
“It’s just a couple of categories in there, nothing crazy,” Puls said. “Nobody is duking it out over prizes, but we’re here doing a small competition with raising money … it’s always for a good cause. We give 100% of all the money that we bring in through our social club back to the community.”
The attention on Cheyenne’s arts scene is growing and the city seems to be realizing that, with it scheduling two free Fridays on the Plaza concerts this weekend (one Friday, the other Saturday) that likely bring in visitors to downtown anyway and, in turn, to the Culture Expo.
It took Serrano’s bright idea a few years to get to this point, but he has the right to feel satisfied at the domino effect that’s happened for the better.
“It’s great, man,” Serrano said. “We came right out of the gate [Thursday] and have been busy nonstop … [this festival] something that’s never happened in Cheyenne before.”