Located in the heart of Oakland, Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery is a hotspot within the art community, popularized mainly through word of mouth. I heard about it myself from other art students, and have been attending art shows here since 2010, which always blow my mind.
Art openings happen every month on 2nd Saturdays. The Old Crow Gallery, at 362 Grand Ave. in Oakland, CA offers a space to the public for monthly art exhibits by emerging and seasoned artists.
Check out my interview of the Old Crow gang below.
Notables who have shown or performed in the Old Crow Gallery include: Chor Boogie, Jet Martinez, Gaia, Robert Bowen, John Casey, Lauren Napolitano, Shrine, Krescent Carasso, Shawn Whisenant, John Felix Arnold III, Megan Kimber, David Young V, Black Diamond Shining, Lupo Avanti, Optimist, Kristin Farr, Parskid, Poesia, Feral Child, Deuce 7, Christopher Burch, Henry Gunderson, Kid Yellow, Mario Ayala, Jordan Quintero, ATWA, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Kool Kid Kreyola, Smear, Micheal Kershnar, Jeff Meadows, Jurne, Japanther, Jessica Jenkins Ocotheca, Troung Tran, Amina Slor.
Old Crow Talk
Interview with tattoo artist Philip Milic and curator Terry Addison.
Rae: So, let’s start. Tell me about your unique tattoo shop and its second life as an art gallery.
Philip of Old Crow: In the initial planning, having a communal space and tattoo shop was always my vision, for the most part. A few things have changed, but the gallery part has stayed the same.
Terry of Old Crow: Well, I began showing Philip’s artwork around late 2007, after becoming familiar with his tattooing. At the time, I felt like he was creating gallery ready artwork that stood on it’s own, aside from his already heavily collected tattooing. Philip was in the final stages of opening the shop when we met, and had asked me to help him do an art show to go along with the shop opening.
Old Crow Tattoo and Gallery is divided into 2 large spaces…In the first room our gallery invites you into the tattoo shop which is in a separate larger room.
Pretty much, the minute I saw the space I knew it could be something dope. Since that day, I’ve dedicated all the time I possibly can to having those walls tell stories & hold memories for the people that view them.
Personally, I really enjoy the melding of the two worlds in one. Art galleries move at a much different pace than tattoo shops. Having both in the same space, we’re able to have a constant energy that not only exhibits artwork, but also creates artwork on a day to day basis.
Rae: Philip, How did you come up with the name of the shop?
Philip of Old Crow: My father is an old Croatian man, so it’s dedicated to him, the “Old Cro”.
Rae: Now, as for the tattoos, Philip… What got you interested in that business?
Philip of Old Crow: Not business!!! Now that’s real talk.
When I started tattooing I was young & didn’t care about the money.
I was 17, living in my friend’s parents’ garage, opening up the tattoo studio I was apprenticing at after school. The shop was open from 12:30 pm-ish till 12am-ish every night. And I was there not for the money, but because it ached in every inch of my bones if I wasn’t there.
Rae: How long have you been in the tattoo business?
Philip of Old Crow: I’ve been a tattoo artist for 16 years, and now that I own a shop, I’ve only been in the business part of it for 2 years.
Rae: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?
Philip of Old Crow: Tattooing.
Rae: So, do you still enjoy the job after all these years?
Philip of Old Crow: 16 years later it still keeps me up at night. It really is like a little virus that my mind will never cure from, and I’m very thankful for this.
I hope to be that old guy that just can’t stop even if someone has to hold my arms to do it.
Rae: Any particular tattoo artists out there that you guys are inspired by and would like to work with someday?
Philip of Old Crow: Marcus Pacheco, I got to work with him a few years and fully regret not paying more attention when I did. Being young and not really knowing what’s real in front of you. I also have great appreciation for Scott Silvia, Juan Puente, Dan Dringenburg, and Seth Ciferri… all masters at what they do.
Rae: If a customer were to walk in and give you free reign over what was to be put on them, what could that customer expect from you?
Philip of Old Crow: A swastika blooming flowers in the center, would be a vajra and underneath in script it would say, hard to kill. And if you all don’t know the true meaning of the swastika, you all should look it up and educate yourself.
Rae: Do you feel that the tattoo industry is still very stereotyped?
Philip of Old Crow: I hope so.
Rae: Where do you see the tattoo industry in 5 years?
Philip of Old Crow: Wearing oxygen masks. No, I hope a few bandwagon jumpers fall off and stop doing shitty tattoos. But I think most of folks that are sticking to some of the older ideas will prevail over all the technological shit and bull shit TV programming that they’re trying to implement. The beauty of this craft is that you can still buy everything you need in the USA. Everything is hand crafted from the drawing, to the machine, to the formation of the needles, etc.
Rae: Any words of wisdom for the tattoo artists/business owners of the future?
Philip of Old Crow: Don’t do it. Become a graphic designer or a DJ, or grow pot, or be a Facebook model.
Rae: Any upcoming projects for yourself, Philip?
Philip of Old Crow: In a year, I’ll do something big. As of now, staying focused on the present.
Rae: Next, onto the gallery questions. What is your favorite part of creating art exhibitions?
Terry of Old Crow: Right now, I’m really into the process of bringing an exhibition to life from the curatorial idea all the way thru the show’s closing. For me, conceptualizing exhibitions and coming up with the theme’s direction is so important. That’s something I really pay attention and get stoked on.
Rae: Is there some kind of philosophy behind Old Crow’s curatorial process? What kind of artists are you drawn to? How do you go about finding artists to show their work at the gallery?
Terry of Old Crow: Yeah there’s definitely a philosophy… I’m looking to create gallery moments that change from month to month. Hoping that if a person were able to come to every show in one year they would be able to really make sense of my curatorial choices as a whole.
Almost every month at least one person comes to the gallery and says this is their favorite show.
That month I’m curating for them. With them in mind. I also enjoy creating and being part of an artistic environment for people to engage with. Working within Philip’s shop gives the space a certain shanty mysticism that only working with an artist like Philip can bring. I’m trying to curate month to month, season to season, and honestly year to year, in terms of actual shows themselves.
Artist: John Felix Arnold III
I grew up within the New England hardcore scene. Brought up around dudes that skated all day before they’d paint graffiti all night. And heads that listened to Big L on the way to see a Strife concert. Living in Rhode Island helped expose me to lots of great art and music experiences early on. Which pretty much sums up the direction of my curating, a lil hiphop and a lil hardcore.
As I’ve been working at Old Crow, I’ve learned to curate with more restraint. Focus on beauty, subtlety, essence, and grace. Instead of just overwhelming the viewer with imagery and/or message.
Over the years, I’ve been able to grow with some of the artist’s I’ve shown. The friendships I’ve gained with artists over time has influenced curating and much more. I started a small art collective when in my early twenties with friends I met after spending sometime in the Bay. In 2005 or so, around age 25, I started curating independently and showing some of the same artists’ work I do today at Old Crow.
That being said, I also really enjoy showing artist’s from outside of California as well. I’m constantly hoping to bring someone or something to the table while I have a chance, while truly trying to push the work of those close to me.
Rae: What would you say is an advantage for the gallery of being located in Oakland?
Philip of Old Crow:
Oakland? Oakland’s pride is deep. The culture is rich, the weather is perfect. Lots of that LA face/Oakland booty thing is great too.
Terry of Old Crow: Oakland is rad, just that alone is first. I love the SF art scene and think it has a vibrant history. I’ve learned so much about curating by just living in SF and being able to visit all these high quality spaces. When Philip asked me to curate at Old Crow, I felt like I showed up on my own lil art island.
While there’s so much going on in Oakland, I feel like it’s a perfect time for the type of thing we are trying to present. Which is something that nurtures Oakland but shows the beauty of outward to inspiration and energy.
Rae: Is there anything lacking in today’s arts you would like to see more of?
Terry of Old Crow: Lacking, I don’t know. I’m really more into what I can do better within the space I curate. One thing if any, I think sometimes there’s not enough risk taking in pushing artists or discovering artists that stylistically fit what you may be trying to exhibit.
If we all as gallery directors/curators all did the proper research, I’m sure more artists would be showing within the SF/Bay Area alone. Then again, so many galleries are killing it and are really presenting beautiful exhibitions. So I think it’s more based on what your looking for more the art community at large.
Street Artists are getting kinda silly right now. Respect to the real writers out there, the ones that actually paint.
Rae: What really differentiates the Old Crow Gallery from the others out there?
Terry of Old Crow: Besides that we’re also a tattoo shop, and the face that there’s an alter in the gallery that never moves. The walls aren’t white all the way to the ceiling, there’s lots of things. I think people enjoy the really diverse grouping of artists that exhibit here. I think that is one of the best things about this space and what we are giving to Oakland.
Rae: Any particular artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Terry of Old Crow: Ummm, I really really really like Jane Alexander’s work. Eric Eaton is really great and seems like an honest good dude. Cris Cleen over in NYC @ Saved is creating a narrative w/ his paintings that I’d like to see explored in a gallery setting. MR Jago work is fantastic. I’m really interested in showing an artist named Reader’s work as well.
Rae: What attracted me most about your tattoo shop, has been the art show openings and word of mouth of friends who’ve gotten tattoo work by you guys. I’ve been to a few gallery shows since 2010 and was always blown away by the Artists’ work shown here!!! Amazing!!! Any favorite Artists that have shown here previously that has inspired you guys?
Philip of Old Crow: Robert Bowen, Robert Burden, Optimist, and Shrine. This question is kinda silly cause if I didn’t get inspiration from it all, I would be sleeping. So really, I pull inspiration from everyone that has shown, even those I didn’t like so much.
Terry of Old Crow: The Poesia show was really amazing. I think it served as a re-introduction to the gallery artist he is today. Optimist paints super good. Shrine’s show was beautiful. John Felix is the future.
Lauren Napolitano is such a multi-talented artist, she’s epic and curated better shows than I have in my own gallery, also was part of one of the most exciting shows we had this year. Lauren, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Kool Kid Kreyola, Andrew Luck, and Brett Flaningan were able to put together one of the most cohesive shows we’ve ever had.
I brought Megan Kimber’s work to gallery this year and that was rad. Krescent Carrasso is one of my favorite painters, that being said, she hasn’t let me hang any of her paintings yet, but there’s still time anyway. Marcus Pacheco and Vulcan took part in this year’s “Stant Tall pt. II” and that was pretty amazing to have 2 legends from different worlds take part in one exhibition.
Rae: You guys give a lot to the community through showcasing works of emerging artists.
Terry of Old Crow: Getting the chance to create an impression in one person’s mind is really dope. Whether it’s on a buyer’s wall and in a viewer’s memory.
Art starts cycles for people. It gets the brain working outside of oneself, outside the day to day norm.
I hope people walk into Old Crow and feel there’s a vibe to the shop. That same vibe which is present in the style of work that we exhibit and produce. Being part of Old Crow and its constant outpouring of art has been pretty awesome. For a new gallery, I think we’ve done some things that people have been able to really enjoy within the art community.
Rae: Any words of wisdom for the creatives out there?
Terry of Old Crow:
Listen to Rick Ross while you make artwork… Hustle Hard, home skillet. And tell stories with your art.
Rae: Any upcoming projects for Old Crow Gallery in the future you are excited about? New exhibitions in line?
Terry of Old Crow: Tweenz in Feb, Ink to Abstract in March w/ Shawn Whisenant, Robert Bowen, Poesia, Weirdo, and Jessica Jenkins, Pre-Vinylite Society in May, April’s show “Entrophy w/ Mario Ayala & Vibrata Chromodoris,” June we’ll be showing JAE54 and Chez, John Felix Arnold III has a solo show in June which is gonna be crackin’. Stand Tall 3’s in August. Out calendar for next year is really fun….I can’t wait to see these shows come to life, epic.
Rae: Any final words?
Terry of Old Crow: We out here. Shouts out to all my IPG’s and BG’s, Awake Click Stand Up. Metro, I see you. I wanna thank Philip for allowing me to work within the Old Crow Family. Espirit d’ Escalier.
Rae: Thank you for the interview Old Crow. Looking forward to seeing more art happenings in the future!