NEWPORT CITY - Anthony Rodriguez, also known as Tattoo Tony, grew up in New York City doing graffiti on trains. Now he has a chance to display his work as community art while also working to build his business.
Rodriguez and a team of artists from TNT Explosive Tattoos, his shop, will be collaborating with Fresh Start Community Farm this summer to draft a paint-by-numbers mural for the fence of the Summer Street Garden that narrates the history of the neighborhood.
“The piece that we’re doing now is part one - o collect stories about where the community has been, for the inside of the fence, “said Khris Flack, Farm Facilitator for Fresh Start. “And then do the same process next season for the outside of the fence so people can see where they want the community to go. Fences are usually about separation, and so it was an interesting idea for me creatively to make a fence that was about bringing people together.”
Rodriguez was recognized as one of the city’s unsung change-makers by Flack and other Fresh Start gardeners during last year’s gardening season off of Second Street, where Rodriguez has his shop. Whether constantly changing the appearance of his shop, advising younger customers to make wise decisions, or just maintaining a friendly presence in front of TNT, Rodriguez seemed to be in the habit of trying to gradually change the status quo, an effort that fit well with Fresh Start’s mission to grow a more vibrant Newport, Flack said.
Inside TNT, Rodriguez’s work ethic is just as apparent, with Haz-Mat removal certifications and CPR certifications on the wall, as well as the year’s record of sterilization tests posted next to his autoclave, a machine that sterilizes all of his tattoo grips and piercing equipment through heat and vibrations. This allows Rodriguez to maintain the only self-sterilizing shop within a 45-mile radius. Add that to 1,000 hours of apprenticeship and a lifetime’s worth of practice — Rodriguez learned how to draw from his mother, also an artist — and it’s easy to see the higher standard in tattooing and business Rodriguez is striving for.
“I feel good to participate in (this project), and it’d be nice to see this grow and get somewhere,” he said. “You have to put yourself out there; you have to show people what you’re about and what you want to make out of life and explain to everybody that it’s not easy but you’ve got to give to get.”
The farm will begin collecting stories about the neighborhood and its history from seniors and other community members this month, beginning on April 19 at noon at the United Church’s monthly meal. The draft of the mural is expected to be on the fence as early as this fall or as late as next spring, based on how many stories are collected.