For Matt Goss, the journey to becoming a full-time tattoo artist wasn’t always a foregone conclusion, but it’s a career he said he’s “blessed” to have fallen into.
His shop, Syndicate Tattoo, celebrated its 10th year in business on Monday.
The Lewiston, Pennsylvania, native moved to the Manhattan area by way of Fort Riley, where he spent about three years in the Army working with tanks. Goss, 43, said he’d been drawing since he was a kid, and he was still able to stretch those creative muscles during his Army years by touching up murals, painting rocks with his unit’s crest at the National Training Center and designing logos. To this day, Goss occasionally helps units create designs for T-shirts and other items.
Goss said his first brush with tattoos was when he was a young boy, and his uncle was the only one in his family who had any.
“I used to go to this little fair, and there’d be this trailer set up with these biker guys with a little sandwich board out front,” he said. “People would go in and out and get tattoos, and I was always warned to stay out of there. But I just remember peeking out of there, wondering what was going on. It wasn’t until I joined the Army and came here that I got my first tattoo (a dragon on his leg).”
After being discharged from the Army because of an injury, Goss attended K-State to work on an art degree. However, he ended up finishing two degrees at Manhattan Area Technical College, one in graphic arts and other in auto mechanics.
During that whole time, starting from his days in the military, Goss worked at local tattoo shops, mainly in reception, but he also had opportunities to help come up with tattoo designs. Eventually, he had the opportunity to begin apprenticing at former local shops like Rat-a-Tat and Stray Cat Tattoo.
In 2010, Goss set out to open his own business on Poyntz Avenue, so he’d have more creative control. He started out with one of his longtime friends, Jason England, who is another artist at Syndicate.
Since first entering the industry, Goss said he’s seen several changes, one of which is how much more open artists are to sharing trade “secrets.” Before, Goss said artists would keep to themselves, but with social media being so prolific these days, they often reveal what types of pigments or needles they use or film tutorials on designs.
Even for as long as he’s been in the business and serving on the state’s board of cosmetology for a few years, Goss said he makes it a point to continue learning, whether that’s through a YouTube video or taking classes at conventions.
“I like to be a student of life,” he said. “I never feel like I know everything, and I don’t want to. I like to see different styles and people getting tattooed. It’s amazing doing the same things every day for 14 years, but there are still people who are doing it better or different.”
Goss said he enjoys being able to make a difference in someone’s life or how they perceive themselves by creating art on their bodies, as well as getting to know someone over the course of several hours.
“The first cover up tattoo I ever did, the lady stood up … and then she gave me the biggest hug,” he said. “I thought we’d done something positive for that person and gave them a second chance. … I love that aspect of it that gives people the opportunity to be who they want to be and express themselves the way they want.”
One of Goss’ oldest clients is someone he’s worked on for 14 years. He said they’ve worked on full sleeves and his chest and back. Goss said he’s been working on creating a chain metal design on his client, one of his most challenging pieces to date, though his specialties are flowers and geometric shapes.
“It’s just fun to build those relationships with people and have that trust,” he said. “When you sit with people three to four hours at a time, they’re no longer just like clients. I mean, you become friends with those people.”
Though the coronavirus has shifted a few things at the shop, such as doing temperature checks on those who enter, wearing masks and adding air purifiers, Goss said tattoo businesses already treat people as if they have communicable diseases, and they are required to follow strict hygiene and sanitation guidelines. For now, Syndicate has kept the lobby closed to walk-in traffic and taken in clients by appointment only.
Goss said it can be difficult for any artist to turn their passion into a profitable career, but he’s lucky to be where he is today with his family and fellow staff.
“I’ve been blessed to get into the tattoo industry,” he said, “just to be able to do art and enjoy what I’m doing and be able to share that with people. ... We have a really great community here in Manhattan. Even though it’s a very transient community, there’s a great core of people here and it’s a very close knit small community underneath. … It would be hard to go to another community and start over.”
Effective immediately, people on K-State’s campus — including students, faculty, staff members and visitors — will be required to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses at all times while in public spaces, classrooms and other common areas, the university announced Tuesday.
Coverings also will be required anytime people are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. K-State officials said failure to comply with the requirement could lead to loss of access to certain areas or activities.
Following last week’s news that 14 K-State football players tested positive for the coronavirus, university officials continue to plan to resume in-person classes on Aug. 17 while adding precautions.
When announcing fall plans earlier this month, officials said masks would only be required in classroom settings. This new
“Face coverings help us prevent spreading the virus to others, even if we don’t know that we have it,” said Dr. Kyle Goerl, Lafene Health Center medical director. “This update to the face-covering policy will slow the spread of COVID-19 to help us in our plans to return to campus.”
With the recent spike in Riley County cases, K-State officials are also urging other basic health precautions, such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding personal contact and large gatherings, cleaning highly-touched surfaces and staying at home if feeling sick or if exposed to a positive case of COVID-19.
People will need to provide their own masks, and departments can obtain face coverings and other supplies for their employees from the Division of Facilities.
Students and K-State employees also will have to complete a brief COVID-19 training video. Completion will be tracked and monitored for K-State employees through Human Capital Services. Officials said the method for tracking of students’ completion is in the works.
They said anyone who needs reasonable accommodations from the policy may contact the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for employees or the Student Access Center.
K-State officials are still working out testing policies and procedures for students, faculty and staff. In any case, anyone who arrives at Lafene with symptoms is tested per Centers for Disease Control and Kansas Department of Health and Environment testing protocols.
Additionally, administrators are working on a classroom plan to ensure social distancing and limit capacity. Officials will evaluate each classrooms seating capacity, ventilation requirements and technology needs, among other aspects, to deliver final classroom plans in mid-July. K-State’s Manhattan campus has over 300 classrooms, in addition to 256 teaching labs.
The university is in phase 3 of its Reawakening K-State plan. Under phase 3, mass gatherings are limited to 45 or fewer individuals, and employees are encouraged to work remotely as much as possible. However, officials said K-State can revert to earlier stages in its plan based on local or state health orders.
The Manhattan Boys & Girls Club on Fifth Street has closed after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.
Executive director Trent Jones said in an email to The Mercury on Monday the club learned Saturday about the staff member’s positive test.
Jones said that there is a possibility that other staffers and kids were exposed to the infected person in the week prior to the diagnosis.
However as of Monday, he said officials haven’t determined that any youth had been in close contact with the employee.
It is unclear when the club will reopen.
“We will reopen our program as soon as it is deemed safe to do so,” Jones said.
Jones said the club is being sanitized and deep-cleaned.
“Safety is the number-one priority of Boys & Girls Club of Manhattan, and we are doing everything possible to keep children, our staff, and volunteers protected from the COVID-19 virus,” he said.
The staff member is currently quarantining, Jones said.
“We are also in ongoing communication with this individual, who is following strict medical guidelines and will remain in quarantine as recommended by their doctor,” he said.
In addition, Varsity Donuts also announced it was closing for a couple days because of the increase in coronavirus cases.
“We’ll be using this time to have staff members tested and to freshen, fix up, and continue sanitizing the shop, so when the time comes to reopen we can be certain we’re providing a safe environment for customers and employees,” the announcement said.
Bars and restaurants can only allow people up to 75% of their capacity in new health regulations issued by local health officer Julie Gibbs.
The new capacity limit, as well as a reduction of mass gathering maximums to 50, is in response to a local coronavirus case spike.
Gibbs’ new order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and remains in effect for 14 days.
“The data for our community indicates the need for more restrictions,” said Gibbs, who is also the director of the Riley County Health Department. “We will take steps to protect public safety and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. If these measures are not successful, additional restrictions may be necessary.”
Riley County confirmed 41 cases since Friday, many of them in the 18- to 24-year-old age range, officials said. Gibbs said Tuesday during a press conference that the county expected to see a jump in percent positive as the county reopened, but not this big of a jump.
“I think we may have let our guard down a little bit,” Gibbs said.
In addition, all restaurants and bars must screen each employee prior to starting a shift. This screening includes asking the employee about contact, symptoms, travel and a temperature check.
“All other businesses are strongly encouraged to screen employees,” officials said in the Tuesday release sent to the media.
Gibbs can order businesses or any locations to close that are not in compliance with this new order.
Officials said social distancing practices should still continue.
Kansas State’s upperclassmen football players were the first to report back to campus earlier this month. The problems began with the newcomers — freshmen and transfers — who started to trickle in soon after.
K-State’s athletics department had reported the first 90 players tested for the coronavirus came back negative. More than 40 additional players were tested soon after, and of those, the total number of positive tests was 14 — one of the largest totals in the country among athletics programs that have reported their numbers publicly.
Athletics director Gene Taylor described how the outbreak began.
“We had the new guys starting to come in intermittently,” Taylor told The Mercury in a phone interview Monday night. “Four, five, six would get in at a time, and we’d test them and then we’d test the next group. So we tested them intermittently. The last group, I think, got in on a Thursday.”
That was June 11 — the day K-State announced all 90 athletes tested were in the clear. K-State didn’t receive the results of the June 11 tests until that Monday, June 15, however.
“They had gotten together with their buddies at some point over the weekend,” Taylor said, “and that’s where it started to spread.”
In an interview with KMAN Radio earlier Monday, Taylor noted the two infected players, unaware they were carrying the virus, met up with teammates from June 12 to 14.
“There (were) a couple of social gatherings — again, nothing terrible,” Taylor said. “I think probably a bunch of guys sitting around their apartments playing video games. I think there was something else, a pool party or something.”
From there, the number of positive cases began to rise. From two to four. Then four to eight. In its most recent tally, K-State announced Saturday 14 players have tested positive. Taylor didn’t acknowledge any additional active cases.
“It’s at least 14,” he said.
After the first two positives, Taylor said the next two cases were discovered after players showed up with high temperatures. They immediately were sent home and tested for COVID-19 again. This time, they came back positive.
“Those two guys could have been part of the close contacts during the weekend, or they could have been exposed before the weekend and started feeling bad Tuesday or Wednesday when they came in,” Taylor said. “So I don’t know if they were veterans or part of the second group of (new) guys. I honestly don’t know. But they could have been exposed. We just assumed they were exposed over the (June 12) weekend when those guys started hanging out together.”
The only active cases in K-State’s athletics department, Taylor said, are football players. No K-State Athletics employees or football coaches have tested positive.
“The only ones who have interaction with them are strength coaches,” Taylor said. “The (coaching) staff can’t see them. The trainers are there, but they’re masked and gloved when they walk in the building. So the only one who’s had interactions with them were the trainers.”
Taylor made sure to emphasize one point: The players who showed up last week with temperatures were allowed in the building only because they were part of the first group of 90 who tested negative.
“They had been cleared before, and somewhere got exposed over that weekend,” he said. “They were part of the initial 90, because they had been cleared to come into the building. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have even been able to come into the building.”
In its announcements surrounding testing, K-State Athletics hadn’t revealed whether any players previously had shown symptoms. Taylor acknowledged Monday that “we’ve had some symptomatic cases.” He didn’t know the exact figure, however.
“I think there were three kids that, between a couple of kids showing up and having a temperature and then a couple kids calling in (had symptoms),” Taylor said. “I don’t know (if) the rest of them were more asymptomatic. ... How many are actually even feeling badly? I don’t think anybody feels terribly, other than maybe a headache or some aches and maybe some temperatures. But nothing much more than that.”
Watching it unfold before his eyes, Taylor said “it’s amazing how quickly” the virus spreads.
He believes football players have learned an important lesson.
“You guys have got to wear your masks when you’re together and you’ve got to make sure you can stay apart from each other,” he said. “If they’d have done that, we’d have probably had less than half of those numbers.”
Taylor repeatedly returned to that assertion: If players only had worn masks and properly maintained social distancing, there’s no telling how much smaller the number of positive cases might be.
“And we probably wouldn’t have had to take the pause,” said Taylor, referring to the suspension of voluntary football workouts the athletics department announced Saturday. “But when nobody wears a mask, it just spreads that much further. But if our players always go out and have masks on wherever they go, then the chances of them becoming either close contact or becoming positive are much, much less.
“I don’t think (players) understood it at first. (It was like), ‘Nobody else is wearing a mask. Why should I wear a mask?’ I think now that they’ve seen it run through (the) football (program), they’re like, ‘OK, I get it now.’ Hopefully they’ll adhere to that, because I think that’s a huge way to keep it from spreading.”
How K-State ensures players will wear their masks and abide by social distancing guidelines, Taylor said, isn’t as difficult as one might think.
Think about it like an additional team rule.
“You know if you show up too late to lifting every day, you’re probably going to face some consequences. If you don’t go to your academic support, you’re probably going to face the consequences,” he said. “If we tell you you’re in quarantine or in isolation, and we hear that you’re out or you’re not wearing your mask or you’re not in quarantine, you’re probably going to face some consequences. What those are, I don’t know. That’s going to be up to (head football) Coach (Chris) Klieman.”
One potential penalty Taylor shot down: That K-State would strip athletes of their scholarships if they test positive. That’s nothing more than a rumor.
“Some parents heard that we said if their kid gets COVID, we’re going to take their scholarship,” he said. “No, that’s not the case.”
Another reason Taylor is hopeful that players will follow these pandemic-induced rules: He truly believes the framework of the football program has “good kids” at its center.
“Nobody did anything purposely,” he said. “They didn’t run out and say, ‘OK, I’ve got COVID. I’m going to go and spread it all over.’ That’s not the case. There’s just still a youthful mentality of, ‘Oh, I’ll be fine. I’m not going to get it.’ And sure enough, it’s gone through them. Fortunately, they’re young. For the most part, they’re not going to be very sick. They’re going to get over it in a couple of days, and hopefully they won’t face the chance of getting it again.”
Even that isn’t clear, though.
“People are saying you could get it again in a couple of months,” Taylor said. “So I just think we have to keep educating them and doing everything we can to stress the importance of following the advice of our medical folks.”
For Taylor, the most exasperating aspect of the positive tests isn’t necessarily K-State’s numbers. It’s that being transparent has worked to his department’s detriment — K-State now is cited in nearly every article written about the coronavirus’ effect on college athletics — while other schools seemingly fly under the radar.
Taylor is frustrated and flummoxed at the juxtaposition.
“I’m not sure every school out there (is) really reporting their numbers,” he said. “I don’t know how they cannot do that. I’m sure they’re reporting to their counties, but they’re not doing any sort of release, though I’m guessing there’s other schools that have as many, if not more, than we do right now.”
Taylor's full interview with KMAN Radio is featured in the embedded video below.