Gumbo Art, a new art gallery in Harvey, IL, opens in July.


Jermaine Maxey, a professional tattoo artist, is the owner of Gumbo Art, an art gallery, tattoo parlor, and bespoke apparel in Harvey, IL. Known as the “Coolest Art Spot,” Gumbo Art features professional quality artwork and paintings by some of the world’s best tattoo artists and custom art specialists. Gumbo Art’s grand opening is on Sunday, July 4th, 2021 at 369 E. 147th Street, Harvey, IL at 12 noon.

Chicago Defender: What Inspired You To Become a Tattoo Artist?

Jermaine Maxey: As a child, I always enjoyed drawing and scribbling. I was a fan of the Star Wars movie. I would draw the characters in the film. What got me into tattooing was a tattoo party. There was a lady at the party with her tattoo equipment, which piqued my interest. She told the guest that if I did her tattoo it would be free. She let me use her gear and I tattooed my brother’s friend, a small anklet, on her leg. It came out nice. The lady told me that she would let me know about future tattoo parties I would be attending and learn from her. She also gave me a magazine to order a tattoo starter kit and I’m excited about making tattooing a professional career.

Chicago Defender: How did you come up with the unique name Gumbo Art?

Jermaine Maxey: The name came from the fact that I did something other than tattoos. I want to show art and make people aware of artists who don’t work in my shop. They may have a piece in my shop for someone to see and they can commission and have the artist work. Gumbo Art is more than a tattoo shop.

Chicago Defender: What Makes Gumbo Art Different From Other Art Galleries?

Jermaine Maxey: Gumbo Art was created by an artist who understands artists. Certain tattoo shops are based on percentages. Tattoo artists get 50/50 or 60/40. If an artist does a tattoo for $ 2,000, they have to give the store $ 1,000. Some artists have a certain feeling when they give the owner that much money even though it is legitimate. Artists who work at Gumbo Art, whether they do contract work or tattoos, I don’t take all their money. Gumbo Art is more aimed at the artist. My gallery also offers bespoke clothes, shoes and created logos.

Chicago Defender: What is your future for Gumbo Art’s vision?

Jermaine Maxey: I would love to see Gumbo Art galleries all over Chicagoland and in neighborhoods where kids are less fortunate, where Gumbo Art can inspire them to become future artists.

Chicago Defender: How would you describe your style as a tattoo artist?

Jermaine Maxey: My style is black and gray because I do a lot of melanin skin. Color shows up on our skin, but black and gray looks great and lasts longer. This is my specialty.

Jermaine Maxey Gumbo Art Chicago DefenderChicago Defender: What can a customer expect when walking through the doors of Gumbo Art?

Jermaine Maxey: The customer is trained. I give my clients what they want, but I always give my honest opinion. Some customers want their spouse and / or partner’s name on their body. I tell them this is not an art, just a name. Sometimes they listen to me. I’ve seen clients not take my advice and come back and regret the decision they made wanting to cover up the name or tattoo. When a potential customer comes to Gumbo Art, they will be well advised by a licensed, professional and experienced tattoo artist.

Chicago Defender: What do you think about art that is not taught in schools and the lack of art programs in some black communities for young people looking to express themselves through art?

Jermaine Maxey: It’s a farce that there aren’t any art programs for young children, especially in south and west Chicago. They took the art out of the schools in our community to hinder us. That’s why I used Gumbo Art in Harvey, IL. Young people have to see that. I want you to see an art gallery owned by a black man. I’m working on bringing arts programs back into schools. I have to give back to the community by offering art programs at Gumbo Art to teach the basics of art, sterilization and tattoos.

Chicago Defender: What advice can you give to others who want to become a professional tattoo artist?

JM: The most important rule is the importance of sterilization. Before thinking about the artwork, practice cleanliness. Never reuse needles and only use single-use devices. Cleanliness is the most important part of a sterile tattoo artist. Works of art are secondary. When I started out as a tattoo artist, I was told that my station looked like a doctor’s office because it was so clean. I taught Kat from the reality show Black Ink to sterilize. This is the first thing I teach my students. Sterilization is more important than a work of art.

To learn more about Gumbo Art and to support the opening, visit and Maxey would like to dedicate this article to his colleague, Jose Ortiz.

Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and writer. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelher.


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