Q&A: Hell City’s Durb Morrison

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From the April 10, 2014 edition

This weekend tattoo enthusiasts get a little slice of Heaven, in Hell.

The Hell City Tattoo Festival is slated for this weekend at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, bringing with it droves of top-tier tattoo artists and an army of inked-up foot-soldiers ready to partake in the festivities. With Columbus tattoo stalwart Durb Morrison at the helm, this year’s Hell City is the largest in the festival’s 14-year history, making it this weekend’s premier destination for all-things ink.

Columbus is becoming the Midwest’s tattoo mecca. Columbus is a very liberal and artistic city, and people are coming here to get tattooed by some of the amazing local shops, as well as check out the festival. When we started Hell City 14 years ago, we were blown away by how quickly it grew. We’ve matured into the festival, and this year’s is set to be the largest one to date. Not only is it my hometown, but Columbus embraces art in general and views tattooing as an art form. It makes sense that Hell City be in Columbus.

The festival isn’t just about tattooing. Everything we do at the festival pertains to art in some form. Yes, a lot of that is tattoo art, but many of the artists at the festival work in mediums other than skin. It’s important to show people we aren’t just bikers or criminals or whatever, we are creative people. This year we are having the Suicide Girls’ Blackhearts Burlesque Show on the main stage, educational seminars, a freak show with legendary sideshow performer Enigma, and an Art Fusion stage, where a rotating group of artists complete five collaborative paintings.

We are bringing in celebrity tattoo artists, but we also are featuring a good chunk or local talent. This year we are bringing in some high-profile tattoo artists like Big Gus from “Tattoo Nightmares” and Teresa Sharpe from “Best Ink” Season 2, in addition to some of the best Columbus artists. Space is limited, so unfortunately not every local shop can be represented. But I want the festival to be about bringing in tattoo artists Columbus natives can’t get tattooed by otherwise, not somebody who works down the street. Also, between the competitions, art fusion, the fine art gallery and our educational seminars, there is a way for everyone to participate.

Hell City is kid friendly, seriously. We view tattooing as an art form, and a lot of tattoo enthusiast parents are presenting it to their kids in that way. We have a temporary tattoo booth and a mini “Heck City” area with a lot of other fun stuff for kids. A lot of parents tell me their kids won’t go in [to the festival] until they have their temporary tattoos because they want to participate in that way. It’s pretty cool.

Hell City is never the same show twice. We work really hard to ensure we bring in different musical acts, events and artists every year. We try to bring in artists from all around the world so people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, can work with these talented people.

Photo by Alissa Brunelli