Sacred Art Tattoo’s Hidden History


Zoe Sandvigen

Sacred Art opened in 1995, and has been in the same location for all 25 years, located in the restaurant hub with the blue overheads right under Local Boyz. Joey Taylor, the owner and operator of Sacred Art Tattoo, is not only a tattoo artist, but a philanthropist and supporter of his community. Starting in 2016, Taylor has organized an annual tattoo expo where all of the proceeds go to the families who have lost loved ones to motorcycle accidents. Taylor recruits fellow tattoo artists willing to volunteer in the expo. 

Marking the human body as a form of self expression has been around since before the Pyramids. The sacred ritual of enduring pain to paint the body with stories is one rooted in our history. In today’s modern world, it may be less of a ritual and more of a creative form of self-expression, but all tattoos have stories of their own. 

From student athletes who have gone pro, to pre med students who are now doctors, Taylor has tattooed them all. He’s even been around long enough to tattoo a student who years later sent their child to Oregon State University, who also ended up getting a tattoo from Taylor. 

Taylor has many stories of his own. When he opened Sacred Art, it was the only tattoo parlor within a 50 mile radius. He has been tattooing for over 30 years and since then has done a lifetime’s amount of work for his community. 

“We’re getting ready to do our 4th tattoo expo where we do fifteen to twenty minute tattoos, all motorcycle themed. The first year there were four of us, then seven, and last year I believe there were nine,” Taylor said. “This year I hope to have the number in the double digits.”

The event will take place Saturday, June 13 at the Harley Davidson dealership in Salem. Besides tattoo artists, there will be live music, a food court, beer garden, and a place for riders to connect and enjoy each other’s company.

Circle Norstrom opened the store with Taylor back in 1995.

“He’s got a good heart for sure,” Norstrom said. “I helped open the store with Joey back in 95’ and then I worked here for about a year and then I moved to Hawaii and was gone for 20 years.” Norstrom said.

During his stay in Hawaii, he opened up his own tattoo parlor and worked as an artist before eventually returning to Corvallis to join Taylor at Sacred Art once again. Norstrom plans on working at Sacred Art for the time being and to stick around in Corvallis. 

Taylor also founded the Riders Needing Assistance Organization, to get help raise awareness for the amount of motorcycle riders that are killed every year on the road. The numbers are shockingly alarming and families all over the country, including Taylor, have lost loved ones to accidents that could have been avoided. 

These are two remarkable acts of kindness Taylor has done for his community, and it appears to be the tip of the iceberg. Taylor spent three months giving out free two-hour-long memorial tattoos for people who had lost a loved one, he spent every Saturday for months going out and hosting get together picnics for the local homeless community, and he often gives discounts for tattoos because he enjoys helping the healing process of his customers more than money. 

“I used to do picnics in the park for the homeless people, and I did a couple of birthdays for people down there. So this one guy, he’s now deceased, his name was Santa,” Taylor said. “I used to go down there every Saturday and do a potluck, sometimes just myself sometimes others. I had a birthday party for him and after talking to him, he hadn’t had a birthday party in over 20 years.”

A close friend of Taylor’s, Kevin Ross, took his own life from PTSD. This prompted The Silent Ride ‘Kevin Ross Memorial Ride’ back in 2016 where hundreds of riders rode together to honor his death and to raise awareness for suicide prevention and the very real effects of PTSD. You can view clips of the event here on Youtube. 

Taylor is a remarkable community member of Corvallis who has changed the lives of many and raised tens of thousands of dollars for families in need.

Kyle Switzer, a third year Digital Communication Arts major, weighs in on his experiences with tattoos in today’s world. 

“As tattoos are becoming more accepted In US culture, there’s still the unavoidable fact that, if your tattoos are large and able to be seen, it will hurt your chances at getting a job. Tons of restaurants make you cover up your tattoos if you want to work there and some don’t hire you all together,” Switzer said. “ I think that’s a big thing to consider when deciding where to get a tattoo and if you should get a tattoo.”

That being said, Switzer said his tattoos are part of who he is and he wouldn’t trade them.

“They each mean a great deal, each one holds dense, great memories. As cliche as that sounds, it’s true! Sometimes you just have to forget society and go with what you think is true to yourself.” Switzer said. 

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