Having designs on Fells Point; Tattoos: A local group wants to open a museum on the history and art of tattooing that would address the practice's nautical traditions.


BALTIMORE HAS A Museum of Art, a Museum of Industry and a new children's museum.

Now a local group is planning a different sort of attraction for a prominent location between Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the Fells Point historic district.

The American Museum of Tattoo Art is the name of the venture that a group headed by West Baltimore resident Jeffrey Kilpatrick intends to open at 432-434 S. Bond St., at Eastern Avenue.

Kilpatrick told members of Baltimore's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals this monththat he and several associates plan to open a museum on the history and art of tattooing, complete with exhibits, seminars, speakers and live demonstrations by tattoo artists.

Although tattoo museums exist in Europe and on the West Coast, the organizers say this would be the first of its kind on the East Coast.

"There is no museum of tattoo art" in the eastern United States, Kilpatrick said. "This is it."

Team member George Dobson said the museum has the potential to draw visitors from a wide area because of Baltimore's location and accessibility. "There's a huge tattoo community from New York to Miami," he said.

The museum organizers say that while the practice is popular today, it also was common in ancient Egypt and other early civilizations. In recognition of Baltimore's history as a seaport, they say, the Bond Street museum also will address the nautical traditions of tattooing.

"We couldn't be in Fells Point and not discuss the seafarers' heritage," Kilpatrick said.

Tattoo parlors are prohibited from the urban renewal area where the Bond Street building is located.

Kilpatrick explained that this project is different from a tattoo parlor because it has an educational mission. The only people who will get tattoos at the museum, he said, are those who agree to be tattooed as part of a live demonstration and sign a consent form to that effect.

Kilpatrick said he does not have a firm timetable or budget for the museum, which would occupy the first level of a two-story building that was constructed in the mid-1970s.

He said he wants to operate the museum as a for-profit venture, in the same way that entrepreneur Rembrandt Peale charged admission for his Peale Museum on Holliday Street in the early 1800s.

The museum would most likely be open six days a week, from 10 a.m. or noon to 9 p.m., and admission will cost $1, he said.

After considering testimony, the zoning board voted unanimously to approve the museum as a use for the Bond Street building.

The proposal also has received support from several other organizations and community representatives, including the Bond Street and Eastern Avenue Citizens Association and Steve Bunker of the Fells Point Community Organization.

"As president of the Fells Point Community Organization, I give them my endorsement because of their high regard for the historic character of Fells Point, and feel that their project is in keeping with Fells Point's nautical heritage," Bunker stated in a letter to the zoning commissioners. "I wish them every success."

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The offices, for the insurance company's Special Markets Group, bring 350 employees to the building.

RTKL Associates was the architect for the conversion, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. was the construction manager.

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Pub Date: 1/14/99

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