Sanctuary tattoo shop steps into spring with Season of Rebirth exhibition and outdoor artisan market | Arts + Entertainment | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sanctuary tattoo shop steps into spring with Season of Rebirth exhibition and outdoor artisan market

click to enlarge Paul Haggerty work for Season of Rebirth - PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANCTUARY
Photo: Courtesy of Sanctuary
Paul Haggerty work for Season of Rebirth
To call this past winter harsh would be an understatement. The bitterly cold temperatures of the season were only made worse by the anxiety and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sanctuary, a Lawrenceville tattoo and vintage shop, will say farewell to the last few, inarguably hellish months with Season of Rebirth, an art show featuring around 20 works by local artists.

But despite the suggestive title, the show — which opens on Sat., May 1 and continues through June 30 — veers away from conveying just sunshine and rainbows. Bright colors mesh with skulls, swords, and other imagery that Sanctuary owner Susie Humphrey believes helps the exhibition stay grounded in an overwhelming sense of loss while also looking forward to the future.

This is also reflected in the show's tagline, "Emerge from the dark night of COVID into the sunlight of spring,” and this theme is shown with a range of acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings, as well as mixed media.


"There was a dark age, especially through COVID, where honestly, none of us knew what was going on," says Humphrey, a local tattoo artist who opened Sanctuary in June 2020. "And I feel like now there's a light that's shining through. So there is still that darkness and that sadness. We still lost 600,000 people, you know ... So I kind of wanted that."

Sanctuary wears multiple hats as a tattoo shop, a quality second-hand clothing seller, and, as Season of Rebirth demonstrates, an art gallery. Humphrey says she always thought of her space as living up to its name by acting as an "easy, accessible place" for artists to meet, show their work, and get their name into the community without the hassle they might experience at other galleries.

The desire to be welcoming and inclusive extends to the vintage side of the business, too. "I also really cater to my LGBTQ-plus clientele," says Humphrey.
click to enlarge Adriana Mazzotta work for Season of Rebirth - PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANCTUARY
Photo: Courtesy of Sanctuary
Adriana Mazzotta work for Season of Rebirth
This comes through in messaging on the Sanctuary website, with one page reading "Fashion Is Gender-less" in big letters. The shop's mission is aiming to "break typical gender roles in vintage fashion, creating a new and progressive modern look." Sanctuary’s clothing should also serve as a form of self-expression, instead of a way to "define a person’s sexual orientation or gender." The online Sanctuary shop sells branded merchandise and vintage styles from various eras that includes measurements so that buyers can determine fit beyond the gendered sizing.

While Humphrey says Sanctuary has already hosted three gallery shows, Season of Rebirth will be special — not only as a way to herald a hopefully more healthy spring — but as the launch of the shop's first-ever outdoor artisan market. The market will take place during the show's opening, with sellers setting up in a parklet across the street. Besides vendors, the event will also include live painting and shoots with a photographer from Gettysburg, Pa. who specializes in 19th-century tintype photography.


Humphrey also saw the market as a chance to give back to the community — instead of a regular fee, she asked that each vendor give a $15 donation to SisTers PGH, a local nonprofit that finds housing and other resources for BIack and Indigenous people and people of color who identify as trans, queer, or non-binary.

click to enlarge Nicholas Sardo work for Season of Rebirth - PHOTO: COURTESY OF SANCTUARY
Photo: Courtesy of Sanctuary
Nicholas Sardo work for Season of Rebirth
While the shop has faced some hard times over the pandemic, Humphrey says she has seen foot-traffic picking up. She believes that events like the Season of Rebirth opening and an upcoming first-year anniversary celebration planned for June 5, will let people know that Sanctuary is open and ready for visitors.

“I just want to make sure that people know that they can come in during normal business hours,” says Humphrey, who also understands that many people may not feel ready to venture out yet. “We can even set people up with an appointment if they feel more comfortable that way.”

Season of Rebirth opening and outdoor artisan market. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., May 1. Sanctuary. 3533 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Free. sanctuarypittsburgh.com

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