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Rochester Exhibition Shows Skateboards As Art

Kelly Walker
Finger Lakes Public Radio

Think about the last time you saw a skateboarder. Maybe it was a lone person on the street where you live riding late at night. Maybe it was a group downtown practicing tricks on curbs and benches. Did you happen to notice the skateboards themselves? A new exhibit at the Art Museum of Rochester brings the art of skateboarding up off of the streets. During the installation of Hoarders of Cool, Friends of the ROC City Skate Park President Alan Presutti showed off walls of skateboards. Skateboards that are varied and colorful and in some cases, used.

“Some of the older stuff because it’s harder to get your hands on. So, you find some older guys who aren’t interested in skateboarding anymore and they might have some things in their garage or finding them on eBay or whatnot. There are a lot of brand new, untouched things up here also, a lot of autographed stuff. As you get older, you start to appreciate and you hold on to things. When you’re young, you’re a teenager, you’re going to ride whatever you can get your hands on because you can’t afford to have brand new skateboards just laying around your house, because you’re kind of dependent on your part time job or your parents’ money. But, as you get older, you start getting a job, you start having disposable income, nostalgia starts to kick in, you’re like ‘Oh! That’s on eBay. I used to have that board. I’m going to buy it for $300!”

Does it seem like an exhibit of this kind is going to appeal largely to skateboarding insiders? Sure. But, Presutti says there’s plenty for the open-minded visitor to appreciate.

“For the most part an event like this is pretty specific in the audience it’s targeting, but a lot of people come in. They can appreciate the artwork. A lot of that has to do with, some of these boards are limited, their hand-screened, they’re done by famous artists from the skateboard industry. So, just come in and appreciate the diversity of what you can see and the art. There’s more involved than a rotten teenager on the curb that you think is causing a problem.”

And that’s part of purpose of Hoarders of Cool. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of skateboard culture and about the ROC City Skatepark project and perhaps to educate as well. The exhibit features skateboards and memorabilia spanning 30 years drawn from private collections.

“Very limited edition skateboards, some rare things you just can’t get your hands on. Some things are a little bit more popular. But, we have a wide range of things to appease people of all ages going all the way back to skateboards with steel wheels, skateboards with clay wheels. So, you’re hitting the fifites era. You get into the sixties we’ve got a couple more plastic boards and things throughout the store. Some sixties and seventies era kind of things. And, we quickly get into the eighties with the larger boards, so rare boards like a Christian Hosoi Hammerhead. He’s one of the biggest most legendary eighties type guys. There’s rare Tony Hawk stuff here."

With skateboarding coming to the Olympics in 2020, it’s about to about to get a lot more attention, which happens from time to time. That means businesses looking for opportunities in a culture that prizes a DIY ethic.

“Skateboarding is more popular than it’s ever been. A lot of corporate influence, but there’s also a major movement of the underground trying to, it’s complicated, but kind of fight back against some of that. It’s a long story of corporations getting involved, growing things, using the industry, for better or for worse depending on your viewpoint and then disappearing when they realize they can’t make as much money as they want, can’t fit it into the box that they want.”

Credit Kelly Walker / Finger Lakes Public Radio
Finger Lakes Public Radio
A skateboard deck featuring a graphic from The Giving Tree.

The organizers themselves have all worked professionally in and around skate shops and some of the companies that supply them. But, it remains personal for them as well.

“This graphic is artwork by an artist named Tom Bratrud. This is a Giving Tree graphic. So, this one means a little bit to me because this was one of my Mother’s favorite children’s books. She worked with children extensively and she read this to me quite a bit growing up, so it meant a lot to her. So, I bough her this board because it’s the Giving Tree graphic and she had this up in her office for quite a while.”

Hoarders of Cool comes to the Art Museum of Rochester on Monroe Avenue Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to Midnight with hours Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.
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