AART Accent Tattoo and Piercing Shop is Louisiana’s oldest tattoo shop, run by 75-year-old tattoo pioneer Jacci Gresham.
NEW ORLEANS – If you’ve been driving down North Rampart Street, I’m sure you’ve noticed the colorful buildings on the corner of Rampart and Ursulines. That building is the iconic AART Accent Tattoo and Piercing Shop, the oldest tattoo parlor in Louisiana, run by tattoo pioneer Jacci Gresham.
Most women don’t share their ages, but Jacci wants you to know that she’s 75 years old, and 45+ years later, she’s still creating beautiful body art at AART Accent.
That’s all expected to change later this year when stores close. In an Instagram post shared during the carnival, Jacci announced that it would be the last of the AART Accent. Their building has been sold and the new owners plan to renovate. So, after 46 years, the store is closing.
“This will be the end of an era,” Jacci said.
Jacci Gresham moved from Michigan to NO in 1976
End a store as legendary as Jacci Gresham. Jacci is the second longest running female tattoo artist in the United States and the first black woman to enter the tattoo industry. “In terms of timing, I’m about 20 years ahead of everyone else,” Jacci said.
Jacci is a Flint, Michigan native who moved from Detroit to New Orleans in 1976. She and her then-partner Ajit Singh had the idea to open a tattoo parlor.
“It opened in March 1976, and this room was the tattoo parlor.”
It’s a new frontier for Jacci, who is now entering a largely white, male-dominated industry she’s not familiar with.
“He’s the guy who gets the tattoo, I don’t know.”
She also doesn’t have any tattoos, so she started changing that. Call a well-known tattoo artist “Ed Hardy” or Jacci call him “The Ed Hardy”.
“He’s one of the best guys in the country, but he’s known for doing bodysuits and stuff like that,” Judge said. “I was terrified of getting a tattoo because it was unacceptable at the time. He made a phoenix on me, a little bird like that.”
“I felt like in order for me to learn, especially at that time, I had to dedicate some of my skin to learning, and I did.”
Jacci’s first tattoo and shop cemented her position in an industry that also lacked black tattoo artists.
“Black people want and get tattoos all the time, but generally hand tattoos. We just don’t feel comfortable walking into the store.”
That’s why when you enter the doors of AArt Accent, Jacci emphasizes making everyone feel at home.
Her good friend Faye, who stepped into the store 40 years ago and hasn’t left since, would agree.
“I bought my kid for a tattoo and I just love her spirit. She has a spirit of blessing and she’s lively. I love every minute of it,” Faye said.
“Everybody didn’t embrace it, it wasn’t accepted, and she taught people how to embrace it. She taught people how to work on dark skin.”
Her growth as an artist brought beautiful body art, and within a few years, the eccentric tattoo artist started spreading the word in New Orleans.
“You know a lot of stars have been here. Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw.”
As for Jacci’s future, she is still unknown. Her latest body art piece is dedicated to her parents, who she says might not approve of the tattoo.
“My mom wasn’t happy that I got a tattoo, but I felt like if you’re in the business, you have to be part of the business,” Jacci said.
As for the store, she said it was the end of an era, but a revolution for one of New Orleans’ most beloved characters. A character that will forever be etched in the hearts of many.
“You know, I’ve been here 46 years. I think it’s going to be missed, but it seems like everything will change over time.”
Ms Gresham said she hoped to remain open until at least August 1 this year.
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