Kansas City Tattoo Culture Shines in ‘Maker Nation Challenge’ with a Nod to the Legendary Grimm Family


A new streaming TV series left its mark on a legendary Kansas City tattoo artist after the first of two challenge episodes featuring local entrepreneurs and creatives debuted — showcasing KC’s top tattoo talent tussling without drawing blood. 

“It was the best party I’ve been to all year. I had such a great experience,” said Wes Grimm, owner of Grimm Tattoo, who served as a guest judge on “Maker Nation Challenge,” a new series on the Hearst Television-owned streaming platform, Very Local. (KMBC is Hearst’s local station in the Kansas City market.)

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Competitors Keno G, Bob Bitner, and Davey Gant appear on the “Tattoo Artists Toil with Time In KC Tussle” episode of “Maker Nation Challenge” at Grimm Tattoo.

Two “Maker Nation Challenge” episodes highlight Kansas City residents paying homage to their city through art. The first to air — “Tattoo Artists Toil with Time In KC Tussle” — featured local tattoo artists Davey Gant, Bob Bitner, and Keno G. competing to craft iconic city-inspired tattoos in just four hours. 

Winner Keno G received $500 in supplies for her KC-themed Tattoo, featuring the KC Heart, 18th & Vine, Gates Bar-B-Q, and the new airport. 

Davey Gant on “Maker Nation Challenge"
Davey Gant on “Maker Nation Challenge”


Keno Gs tattoo

Keno G’s winning tattoo

This is phenomenal for me to win this; it’s a great milestone for me,” said Kinesha Glover, who works under the name Keno G. “It just solidifies for me that I should continue what I do and do a good job at it.”

Grimm applauded Keno G for the clean execution of her design, tattooing it with as little wound as possible.

“I liked her artistry for one thing; she had all those different icons of Kansas City, and her technique was great,” said Grimm.

The following local episode of the show — “Chalk Artists Battle the Elements” — is set to premiere on January 2, with three Kansas City chalk artists going head-to-head to capture the vibrant local jazz scene.

Wes Grimm

Wes Grimm watches as a competitor inks a tattoo while filming a “Maker Nation Challenge” episode at Grimm Tattoo.

Ink runs in their veins

“At one time, I had the only tattoo shop in Kansas City,” said Grimm, who hails from a lineage of skilled tattoo artists. His great-grandfather, Bert Grimm, inked iconic figures like Buffalo Bill, Bonnie, and Clyde. 

The family business Grimm’s Tattoo started in 1916 and was carried on by Bert Grimm and Wes’s grandfather, Gene Grimm.

“Being his oldest grandkid, I was always grandpa’s little helper,” said Grimm, recalling how he helped his grandfather with handiwork like moving fence posts in his teenage years.

At 21, Grimm worked on a tow boat navigating the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois rivers. Operating on a 30-day on, 30-day off schedule, his grandfather suggested joining the family business during his breaks.

“He tattooed all the adult men in my family, and sometimes he would tell me ‘Come on and help, come follow me,’ and I hadn’t considered it at the time,” said Grimm.

Grimm ultimately accepted his grandpa’s offer and completed his first Tattoo on his uncle at the original Grimm Tattoo shop on Main Street, supported by his grandpa and great-grandfather standing right behind him.

Click here to follow the Official Bert Grimm account on Instagram.

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Grimm’s Tattoo’s new chapter

Now, the shop owner — located at 1613 Genessee St. in the West Bottoms — is continuing the legacy and rolling with the adversity of evolution.

Grimm Tattoo exterior

Grimm Tattoo in Kansas City’s West Bottoms

“At first, I tattooed exactly the way grandpa tattooed, and he tattooed exactly the way great-grandpa did,” said Grimm. 

Grimm gradually diversified his style with highly detailed tattoos and a broader colour palette. However, now, he has returned full circle to the original artistic style. 

“After all these years of tattooing, I’ve come to appreciate the old, American traditional style, which is a much simpler, classic design,” said Grimm.

Grimm’s story is not without its blurred edges. Grimm’s Tattoo Shop on Broadway burned in a fire on April 6. In June, he started a new chapter in the West Bottoms.

“I’ve seen quite a few huge challenges this past year, and now I can feel grateful because it’s been the greatest year,” said Grimm.

Grimm is excited about the move to West Bottoms, identifying it as Kansas City’s new bohemian art district. He points out a global trend where affordable, overlooked areas draw artists.

“It works like this everywhere,” said Grimm. “Over the years, rent has gone way down, and when you look up later, you’ll find that place full of artists. That’s where West Bottoms is now.”

Grimm sees West Bottoms blowing up with creativity, and he’s all set to have his tattoo shop inked into it in the new year.

“I can’t wait to see the roller coaster ride,” he said. “Whatever heights this takes me, I’m also ready for the plunges.”

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