Growing The Syracuse Arts And Music Scene – An Interview With Jamie Santos



Jamie Santos is known mainly around Central New York for being one of the best tattoo artists in the area. In recent years, she can also be found putting on various events around Syracuse as a way to promote the growing local Arts and Music scene. Last year she held Black Mass Arts & Rock Show at the Palace Theater as well as House of the Saints which was her first solo art show. With a clear passion for music and art, one could say that Jamie has become a prominent community organizer in the Syracuse community. I recently had the pleasure to chat with Jamie about her love of the arts and her hopes and vision for the future of Syracuse Arts and Music.

So when did you realize that you were artistic? 

Jamie- I have been an artist my entire life. My grandfather, he did seascapes, my mother did classical painting, that kind of thing. So when I had the flair for it when I was younger, they sort of pushed that. They said “Just like let it happen! Do art! Draw! Do the things, just do all the things” So I have been doing it forever. I didn’t start doing tattoos as a profession until I was out of college. I actually dropped out of college to do it. 

That’s Awesome! So if you weren’t tattooing, what would you be doing? 

Jamie- I would be painting. I would be doing art in any respect. I like science too! So if I wasn’t doing art I would probably be a Biologist or something like that. When I was in college I was doing art as a major but I was also taking Geology and Biology all those. It’s a good background too.  I love science. 

So what keeps you in Syracuse? You could probably go to any city and do what you do. 

Jamie- Well I actually moved away years ago. I moved away to Maine and lived there for a few years. I was working for a Hell’s Angel up there. Maine was nice but every city has it’s own problems. Just have to make the best of things no matter where you live.  So we came back for family and have been here but I love travelling too. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from? The images from House of Saints are awesome, was that inspired by dreams you had? 

Jamie- Hmmmm…. I guess the concept comes from building something out of your head. Visually, I take inspiration from Spider Murphy or Justin Weatherholtz. I take influence from any artist I work with. Sacred Tattoo in New Zealand is Amazing! Sean Morgan from Scarab Body Arts, I have worked with him for years, He is artistically the biggest influence in my life. I take it from wherever and then sort of add my own flair to it, I add some sharks and flowers and all that haha.


So you do a lot of things for the arts in Syracuse, hosting events such as Black Mass at the Palace Theater? Could you tell us a little bit about what that was all about? 

Jamie- I started doing art shows because I felt like the art scene was a little bit “Sleepy” I really wanted to push the envelope. I was a little frustrated with my life and the art scene and I wanted to see something more lively in Syracuse. The first show I did was 80’s art party with Isaac Bidwell and Cayetano Valenzuela, both my friends. So six or eight months later I did Deck the Halls, which was a skateboard art show with Graffiti, illustrations and tattoo art themes. It turned out super well. From there, it felt like more people would want interesting shows and different types of art. I have been doing it since then. 


How did you become involved with the bands that perform at your events? 

Jamie- As far as bands, a lot of the bands that I have at my shows I have worked with before or know their music. Some of them are friends of mine and most are bands that I just straight up appreciate their music. I love pairing visual art with music. I feel like they always seem to collaborate well together.  In my personal life, I am friends with a lot of musicians and it just seems like a good idea to mix the two medias. 

Are their any artists you would like to work with?

Jamie- Jess Novak, I heard her at the Infinite Pop shop that I am part of downtown. She is fucking amazing! She can do everything! She can sing, play violin,  she is such a great singer, she play’s guitar and she loops! She is so talented! I would love for her to be part of one of these types of events. I would just like to work with her. She does a lot for the Syracuse music scene. She stimulates it! Hey Jess! Thank you for staying in Syracuse also! 

So you did the album artwork for my favorite Syracuse Metal band Ecliptic Vision and their album Omphalos of the Void. How did you get involved with those guys and the artwork for that project?

Jamie- I started tattooing Vince the drummer years ago. We both really like Alex Gray’s work and he noticed some things in my work that I had done before. So we did a piece that involved a series of eyes across his chest. It was fun! I warned him it was going to be painful. It was a huge piece but he took it well. Then from there we developed a relationship and he asked for some of my art to be included for the album. Vince is a smart dude! He is also motivated and talented, I can really see them going far. I think they can do well.



What do you hope for the Syracuse music and arts scene going forward? 

Jamie- Well, there have been a lot of developments in the scene over the last four or five years. We now have the Gear Factory, having that space for artists to show work there has been huge. They have found a way to successfully mix the arts together. They have spaces for bands to practice on the lower levels and then the upper levels are visual arts. It gives a chance for everyone to mix together. Also, anyone promoting the arts within Syracuse is good, cross pollinating  shows or events with a mix of arts and music is always great. We need that…”More and better” art and music. Just a combination of quality art and music.  I love when I hear people say “Oh my god that is here? I didn’t expect that in Syracuse.” Hopefully these people will stay and contribute to the movement instead of leaving, maybe it will inspire them to stay.  Whatever helps people get out of their homes and out to shows supporting the scene. I feel like things are getting better here, I have seen many local businesses reach out to artists like Tommy Lincoln and Cayetano.  They are kept busy by working locally and that has definitely helped Syracuse get better in growing the arts. It takes a small city with local support and a group of people who are committed to staying here and encouraging other people in the arts to stay and grow a scene together. 

 Finally, Do you have a favorite color? 

Jamie- Haha! A favorite color? Hmmm Blue Gray right now. I put it on everything! I will even spray your phone with ink! haha! 

That is awesome Jamie! Thank you!



The “House of the Saints” art project is dedicated to the impact of everyday citizens doing positive things for the community and world around them. The intent of this series is to promote art, community involvement and motivated action that enriches cultural growth within Syracuse. Action promotes action and every person’s action though big or small has a ripple effect on those around them It takes civic engagement by a collection of individuals to push a culture forward. Civic virtue is the cultivation of habits that are important for the success of the community. It is often conceived as dedication of citizens to the common welfare of their community, even at the cost of their individual interests. Every day pursuits; much like support beams, build a house worth living in. “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody” Jane J


How To Start A Fire – Artist Statement

Three years ago I was frustrated. So frustrated with the current state of my own life and the state of the Syracuse art scene, I was ready for a change. So I did it, I created a show called “Deck the Halls” at the SALT Quarters Gallery in 2014. It’s not unique to make art of skate decks. Jim Phillips had been doing it in Santa Cruz long before this upstate raised CNY girl was even conceived. With the help and guidance of Isaac Bidwell, Cayetano Valenzuela and the Syracuse tattoo community I gained momentum and was able to create an art and music show that not only had great attendance but was able to gather together great artists from the Central New York area AND have the show get exposure on the Channel 10 news and I could not have done it without the support of close friends who believed in me and the local artist community I was just starting to be introduced to. A show; whether music, art or both cannot stand on it’s feet without a solid base. I chose those who were the most solid I could find who embraced illustration, graffiti art, tattoo art and low brow. To see something like it come together in Syracuse gave me a feeling of gratification and hope. A glimpse of an art scene that I’d seen in other cities but very rarely in Syracuse. When the night was over and I was mildly tossed, I truly cried of happiness. To sort-of quote Jim Gordon from The Dark Night: It was the art show Syracuse deserves and the one it needs right now. So I’ll put it on. Because I can do it. Because I’m not a hero but a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A civic artist. I felt like I was doing something good and worth while. Holy-fuck Batman did I get hooked on public art shows. Since then I’ve put together or assisted in curating the “Scarab Body Arts Show” at Scarab Body Arts, “The Machine Show” with Steve Nyland at The Tech Garden, “Passion of the Crust” with Jason West at SPARK, “Art Above All” at SALT Quarters, “Two Weeks Notice” with Camden Noir at CoWorks, “Functional Mess” with Tony Thompson and Steve Nyland at The Dev, “Deck the Halls 2016” at Beer Belly Deli, “Tymeless Tattoo Gallery Opening” at Tymeless Tattoo, solo show for Casey Landerkin at Tymeless Gallery, solo show for Sarah Heppell at Tymeless Gallery, “Midnight Burn” with Michael Giannattasio at the InfinitePop Shop, and just recently “BLACK MASS” at The Palace Theatre in October. Not only have I tried to push the envelope but I am happy to say that I see many individuals and organizations also taking it upon themselves more than I ever could. The renovation of the Gear Factory by Rick Destito has to be one of the most ground breaking with large scale artist and gallery spaces in Syracuse, the talented artists residing in The Delavan Center, continued hard work by the 40 Below Public Art Task Force with co-chairs Ryan Wood & Sofia Marquez, art connectivity at CNY Arts, the Vault, Connective Corridor and Point of Contact by Syracuse University, Michael John Heagerty works day in and out promoting the arts and local business, the creation of Apostrophe’S Gallery and Pat Touhey just recently spearheading promotion, booking and renovation of SPARK. I am very thankful and humbled to be part of the art revival within Syracuse. I have too many people to thank (see separate sheet) for with their kind words, participation, invitations, music, wise words and help. It truly takes a village. – J Santos


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