All decked out: Auction Saturday benefits proposed skateboard park
Kenneth Murphy, 33, of Greenfield works on a skateboard deck that will be up for auction Saturday to support the Unity Skate Park committee's dream of a permanent concrete skate park in Turners Falls.
Artist Terry R. Marashlian instructs local kids on how to sand down skateboard decks at The Brick House Community Resource Center in Turners Falls on Tuesday. The works created with Marashlian will be available for purchase at the skateboard art auction.
Skateboard art at River Station Recorder/Paul Franz
Usually a medium for another kind of art — the wheel-clacking, soaring physical art of airborne flips and winding downhill courses — skateboards apparently work fine as canvases. Dozens of painters from the area and farther afield are supporting the plans to build Unity Skate Park by painting used and new skateboard decks, to be auctioned this weekend in support of the park.
A permanent park is perhaps nearer than it has ever been to reality after more than 15 years of temporary parks or no park at all. The park needs a vote from town meeting members in May to fund construction and volunteers are doing their part with a fundraising campaign. Greenfield resident Kenneth Murphy, 33, is one of the artists contributing time and talent to the auction.
On April 7, Murphy had decorated the underside of his skateboard deck with a portrait of a skateboarder. The wheels were off, but if the board were to be used again, the first things hitting a rail or curb would be Jason Lee’s teeth. Lee is an actor known for “Mallrats” and more recently for lead role in the television show “My Name is Earl.”
Before the star turn, Lee was one of the professional skateboarders Murphy said he venerated as a teenager in California.
Murphy skated himself, which he said was more or less inevitable in California in the 1990s; the cliques were “ghetto” or skater and skating was a social activity.
“It was always really, really cool to be in a scene, skating, with a whole bunch of other skaters around, and you just land s---, and people applaud for each other,” he said. “That was always it: you were trying for an hour to fly off this giant staircase and every time you (messed up), somebody was like ‘yeah dude do it again, do it again,’ and it was actually some of the greatest times ... the best part was just landing amazing tricks with a crowd around and that could be in a Kmart parking lot.”
Painting a skateboard to hang on a wall runs half against the grain; skateboards are commonly highly decorated, but are also made to be broken.
“When you’re a skater and you choose a skateboard it’s not just on the shape and the price, but sometimes the graphic on it — if you’re a good skater it’s going to get messed up,” Murphy said. “The idea of preserving an image is kind of contrary to what you do, so I’m uncertain how I’m going to finish the portrait.”
Murphy ended up finishing it by changing the design, planning to instead create a sort of razor-blade scrimshaw across the grip tape of the deck’s surface.
Murphy’s husband, Thom Dudley, 38, is playing off that destructive aesthetic of skateboards with a fully white-washed board he planned to paint in the style of fine porcelain.
Artist Terry Marashlian of Northfield — also responsible for the ribbon of mirrors decorating one of the former Strathmore Mill factory buildings — imported the concept of a skateboard art show to this area.
Marashlian said he was involved in a successful skateboard art show in San Francisco.
“Initially, I guess, people painted their skateboards and skated on them, but it moved forward to where people see it as being nice wall art,” said Marashlian, adding that the art is often dynamic and highly stylized and also happens to be a convenient size to hang on the wall.
On a scale of one to 10, Murphy puts his younger self at a six as a skater, good enough to get the attention of a talent scout.
“But I couldn’t skate vert so I didn’t get a sponsorship,” he said. “Vert” means ramps and whatnot, the features that draw skaters to a skate park. “Basically, if there’s not a free place in your neighborhood, your parents have to buy you a whole bunch of pads and a membership and I wasn’t a rich kid, so I didn’t learn vert,” Murphy said. He instead skated in parking lots, parks and sidewalks, the kind of places where laws and insurance worries prohibit skating.
The situation is roughly the same in Franklin County, with the difference that there isn’t a skate park anywhere, rich kid or not.
Turners Falls organizers plan to change that in grand style; in place of a succession of temporary parks with plywood ramps, they have plans for a concrete landscape of basins and ramps.
Proponents have said that having a bad park no one will use is worse than no park at all. They are adamant that this will be a park to be proud of.
Land is set aside beside Unity Park — between First and Third streets in downtown Turners, by the bike path and the Connecticut River — and the volunteers of the ad-hoc Unity Skate Park committee have secured $10,000 in challenge grants, $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation and $5,000 from local businesses.
To get that money, however, organizers need to raise a matching $10,000. So far, Recycling company Republic Services has contributed $1,500, the Franklin County Spring 5k race raised $1,700 and fundraisers at The Rendezvous bar have raised another $1,200.
Overall, organizers have about half the matching funds they need. If they can meet the $10,000 challenge, they will head to town meeting May 3 with $27,500 at minimum: $20,000 from the matching grant program and another $7,500 raised previously. The town meeting warrant asks for $400,000, with the money not to be spent unless the project receives a state grant reimbursing all or a part of the cost.
Murphy and Dudley got involved because they know Diana Pedrosa of Turners Falls, who is organizing the auction event.
“It would have been great as a teen to have a skate park in my neighborhood, because you’re always skating in public places, getting kicked out and then being driven to your parents’ house at 14 in the back of a cop car. So, having a designated place for teens to skate is a very positive thing,” Murphy said.
The silent auction is scheduled for Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. in River Station — the former Chick’s garage — at 151 Third St., a stone’s throw from the sight of the future Unity Skate Park. In addition to skateboard deck art, the event promises live music by bands Sandy Bailey and the Stone Cold Fox and Heavy on the Harsh, and a cash bar thanks to Great Falls Harvest, the restaurant down the street.
If you don’t want art but do want to help provide a place for kids to hang out, send a check to The Brick House, PO Box 135, Turners, MA 01376, with Unity Skatepark in the memo line, or visit http://unityskatepark.com and click the “donate” button.
Staff reporter Chris Curtis started at The Recorder in 2011. He covers Montague, Gill, Erving and Wendell. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 257.
Staff photographer Micky Bedell started at The Recorder in 2014. She can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 273.