Planned Detroit skatepark will use sculpture for community building

Planned Detroit skatepark will use sculpture for community building

UPDATE!

Since the publication of this article, the folks over at the Power House got word they have received at $250,000 ArtPlace grant to help along construction and acquisition of the Ride It Skate House, the Squash House, and the Play House. Follow us as we follow Mitch and Gina and the blazing fast construction of the Ride It Sculpture Park. 

Hamtramck, Mich. — Walking down Jos Campau St. in one of the densest cities in Michigan — Hamtramck — I was looking for a store called Chiipss, a skate shop in the process of relocating from Plymouth onto one of the city’s most walkable streets.

Once spotted, the first thing I noticed were the words “Good Wood” emblazoned across the freshly cleaned glass storefront at Chiipss, neatly complimenting the baby blue store front.

Now in its fourth year, Good Wood is an annual show that solicits artists from across the U.S. to paint and design custom skateboard decks for auction to benefit local, charitable causes. 

The beneficiary of the 2012 Good Wood exhibit is the Power House Project’s Ride It Sculpture Park, which also gave the show a reason to come back to its hometown of Detroit after two years abroad with shows in Philadelphia and New York.

According to the Power House Project's website, Ride It will be the first sculpture park where “you can actually [skate] the art” and will be built by local teens and skateboarders as well as a team of experienced park builders.

Andrew Davis, the creator of the Good Wood show, says Ride It was one of the solidifying reasons for relocating Chiipss to Hamtramck.

Slated for construction in four empty lots and alleys near East Davison and Grant St., not far from the border of Detroit and Hamtramck, Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert of PHP say the park will feature a house-turned-mini indoor park, which “will be livable at the same time for visiting skateboarders and artists.” 

Ride It will also extend into the neighborhood, reclaiming alleys and garages, “creating new and positive use for the forgotten and dismissed landscapes of this great city.”

Pat Miller, who owns Chiipss, and Andrew Davis, who co-owns a screen printing business with Miller, organized the May 26 Good Wood auction,  which raised over $25,000 for Ride It through the auction of the 100 hand-created skate decks.

Fundraising

Power House Productions’ ultimate goal for the project is to “create a space where kids and adults can meet, play, create, build and exercise.” They also want to develop stabilization strategies to help revitalize the community. 

Cope and Reichert say the lack of recreation and art venues in the city leaves Detroiters in great need for new ways to build community and neighborhood life, which is mostly dependent on residents’ DIY spirit and love for their neighborhood. 

“[We are seeking] the help and input of the local teens, making them stakeholders/skateboarders in the growth and success of their neighborhood,” the PHP website reads. “The sculpture park will use the creative input of everyone in the neighborhood that wants to be involved.” 

They also promise the skate park won't suck.skate alley

Along with the Good Wood show, Ride It will benefit from the upcoming Wild in the Streets demonstration, a June 21 Emerica-sponsored event where skaters will congregate en masse and ride the streets of Detroit in celebration of skating and its ever-increasing popularity and positive culture.   

Metro-area skate shops will also be selling limited edition Emerica goods and those proceeds will benefit Ride It. Following the WitS event, Emerica and Thrasher will hold a benefit concert at the Modern Skatepark in Royal Oak. For a nominal fee, attendees can skate with the Emerica's pro team, listen to bands and drink beers, all to the benefit of the Ride It park.

Reichert and Cope tried a variety of fundraising efforts, some of which worked and some of which did not. They said by far the Good Wood show was the most successful. 

"We cast a wide net because we just weren't sure what kind of support we could garner from where," Reichert says. "The Pepsi [Refresh] campaign was a bust, as it was all based on vote getting and demanded a lot of time and attention through social networking. We just don't operate this way. [We] would rather spend our time making, building, moving dirt around ... and go[ing] from there."

They say the overall support has been overwhelming. They've collected $5,000 from both Vans and Independent Trucks, as well as a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts through their Art Works grant program. 

Reichert and Cope say native Detroiter Joe Brooks, a photographer for Thrasher magazine, as well as other publications, has been working on the project for over two years and has been instrumental in making the introductions, as well as gleaning Tony Miorana and other renowned skate-park builders to come help build Ride It.

"Joe is also the reason we were supported by Juxtapoz magazine," Reichert says. "We should have a gold bust cast in his honor!"

Build it, Ride It, own it

Mark Waters, the main organizer of Wild in the Streets for Detroit, says he sees skateboarding and the park as a way for kids to empower themselves. “When kids enjoy something, and can focus on something that encourages development, continued involvement, and which creates its own insular community, they are more likely, and more willing, to stay away from destructive behaviors.”

“It can be true of basketball, baseball or any sport,” he says. “But what I’ve found with skateboarding is that it is one of the few activities where the surrounding culture cultivates creativity, artistry, positive attitudes towards others as opposed to a competitive nature.” 

While skating and fundraising are a big part of Wild in the Streets, Emerica is also coordinating with Boards for Bros, who has partnered with WitS since 2010. Boards for Bros will be collecting used skateboards and parts to refurbish and redistribute to kids in Detroit who cannot afford skateboards. According to Reichert, they've collected over 200 boards to distribute to kids and teens in Detroit so far.

According to the Boards for Bros website, “by helping the skateboard community give skateboards to those without the opportunity to ride one otherwise, Boards for Bros works to show that skateboarding can help children learn discipline, respect, and perseverance that will assist them throughout their entire lives, while having fun and exercising.”

Boards for Bros will be accepting skateboards the day of the WitS event and at Plus, Detroit City Skateboards, Oakland Vert Skatepark, Modern Skate & Surf, Refuge Skateboard Shop, Tru Classic and Chiipss. Those who donate will receive a 10% discount on Emerica goods on the day of donation. 

The Ride It Sculpture Park is already under construction and has no set timeline for completion. Reichert says, as with most Power House projects, the park will be an ongoing and long-term project, which will be built in phases. 

Once operational, Reichert says the park will be maintained hopefully through fees from design workshop, or a sort of endowment. They say there will be equipment available for use on the the park and they hope to partner with some nearby schools to host workshops or after-school programs.

While skateboarding may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of how one can help build and revitalize communities, it's certainly a fun and creative way to get youth involved. A skateboard and a few mini ramps to ride may not seem like a whole lot, but to some, it could literally mean the world.

If you’d like to support the RideIt Sculpture Park and PHP, you can donate on their Crowdrise page and kick the skating scene in Detroit to a solid coasting speed.