About a decade ago, skateboard culture got a warm embrace from art museums when the exhibition Beautiful Losers toured the U.S., spotlighting contemporary art inspired by 1990s street culture, including painted skate decks and documentary photographs. Last year, all things skate got another big institutional nod when the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation hosted Innoskate, a public festival on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall that explored the technology and innovation of skateboarding from gear to fashion to performance.The trend makes a local stop on Friday and Saturday when the Polk Museum of Art, part of the Smithsonian’s network of affiliate museums, presents Innoskate Lakeland. The event, conceived by PMoA curator Adam Justice, is one of only two offshoots of the original event; the other takes place at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry in August.
The roughly 24-hour Innoskate Lakeland kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. at PMoA with open skateboarding in a parking lot obstacle course, music and food trucks. On Saturday, the festivities continue with discussion panels, trick contests and more community skating events split between the museum and Lakeland’s $1.3 million, 22,500-square-foot SkatePark at Lake Bonny, which opened last year. The event has been timed to fall on June 21, or Go Skateboarding Day, an unofficial holiday promoted by the International Association of Skateboard Companies, which co-developed the Smithsonian Innoskate.
At PMoA, an exhibition of skateboard-themed art organized by Chad and Suzie Cardoza, All Decked Out!, provides a colorful backdrop for Innoskate Lakeland. The couple has been organizing similar exhibitions in smaller spaces — mostly on the walls of The Bricks, the Ybor City restaurant operated by Skatepark of Tampa — for about seven years under the name Kick Start My Art. Other than an early gig at the old Tampa Museum of Art, where the Cardozas staged a show inspired by motor scooters, opportunities to inject a bit of skate love into the region’s mainstream arts institutions had been hard to come by. Then PMoA came calling.
“It feels like, wow, there’s a museum that gets it,” Chad Cardoza says.
All Decked Out! didn’t land the best real estate at PMoA — the museum’s main galleries are occupied by other exhibitions, so the show is in a wide corridor that wraps around the galleries — but it manages to pack in 49 artworks by nearly 30 artists. Many of the participating artists are local; a few are kids, who contribute some of the most imaginative works in the show, naturally, and four are skate pros, including Lance Mountain and Clint Peterson, who pitched in drawings and boards that brandish their artwork.
The skateboard deck, repurposed as a vertical canvas, is the star of the show. Sculpturally enhanced versions range from RJ Runas’ gothic raven, drenched in black and sporting an Edgar Allan Poe-worthy beak — the piece’s title names the subject as Huginn, a knowledge-bearing bird from Norse mythology — to one sanded and stained by Chris Deacon into the shape of a tube of bright red lipstick. Painted standouts include Michelle Saywer’s stellar “Allegory for Innovation: The Convergence of Vision, Creativity and Growth,” which channels historic vanitas painting with its depiction of two woodpeckers probing a blue skull.
But the real show-stealers are two boards transformed by Marc Cody into musical instruments: a functional electric bass and a mandolin. Unfortunately, but understandably, they’re not touchable by visitors.
Other, more surprising highlights include Melisa Taylor’s jewelry and Chad Shooter’s skate deck lamp. In the latter case, don’t dare to imagine some tacky marriage of a skateboard and an electrical cable. Shooter, who lives in North Carolina, “upcycles” battered boards into sleekly geometrical lamp bodies. They’re some of the coolest high-end man-crafts I’ve seen. Taylor, a Tampa resident, makes belt buckles and necklace pendants out of wood pieces cut from painted decks.
Both projects will appeal to design lovers across the board, not just people who already know they love skateboarding. If you’re not sure which type you are, Innoskate Lakeland is a great time to find out.
All Decked Out! runs through July 20. InnoSkate Lakeland 2014 is Fri., June 20, 6-10 p.m.. and the kick-off event at Polk Museum of Art is Sat., June 21, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. All events at the Lakeland SkatePark and Polk Museum of Art. Full schedule at polkmuseumofart.org/innoskate.