NAC Corner

Skateboard exhibit to showcase one-of-a-kind designs
8.28.2010

The skateboard is, in a way, an obvious opportunity as a canvass. It’s a flat surface of wood and riders are typically young, so it’s prime real estate for edgy, imaginative and expressive graphic design. It is also a marketing tool for artists because, as opposed to work on a gallery wall, a board is traveled by its rider — quickly — from various locations and to various audiences. It brings art to the people.

Such canvasses will be on view in September at the Norwich Arts Council Gallery, bringing to new audiences a sport some might consider a sub-culture.

The “Shred Sled Symposium” is an unusual expo for the NAC Gallery, and the boards on exhibit are provided by Worship Skateboards, a brand started by Jeffrey Blayman, who sells them at An Ideal Skate Shop in Greenville. 

Ideal is not what one might call a typical shop. It is more of a good-will project founded by Blayman, providing what he described as a haven for skateboarders, which is more about riders making connections and finding a sense of community than about selling merchandise. The shop, which sells boards wholesale, is open four hours a day, seven days a week and is run by volunteers.

Worship Skateboards has been involved in the ongoing renovation at Norwich Skate Park on Mahan Drive. It has worked with the historical society and has held skate contests to raise money for its reconstruction.

The philosophy behind Worship is to put the skateboard back in the hands of artists and make them unique pieces of expression. Different artists are outsourced; they provide original work, which is either digitally photographed or scanned, then that image is sent along to the manufacturer. Boards are one-of-a-kind, and the artists Blayman works with are diverse: Jennie Paganetti, 19, of Colchester, designs jellyfish graphics and is working with the Mystic Aquarium; Don Eccleston, 80, of Oakdale, is a watercolor artist and gallery veteran. Worship is working with 10 artists and Blayman continually networks to add more to the lineup. 

“By taking art and moving it to a skateboard,” Blayman said, “that art reaches a new person.”

More commercial

At one time art-driven and often political, Blayman said, skateboards have become more commercial, the boards themselves blasted with logos and the image of the skateboarder in some ways becoming a vacant, ubiquitous archetype.

“Now (skateboarding) is used in McDonald’s commercials,” Blayman said. “You see it everywhere now.”

Compared to other athletes, the skateboarder is a different demographic — one that falls roughly between ages 15-35 and tends to be more creative and often misunderstood, Blayman said.

“Skateboarding is a sport that is you-versus-yourself,” Blayman explained, “it’s not a group mindset.”

Addressing the negative stereotypes in the media of skaters who come across as “a little sketchy,” Blayman is hoping this exhibit will offer a different point of view.  
“Skaters are creative ... passionate. That’s what makes them great,” Blayman said.

Visitors of the NAC Gallery exhibit can get a chance to see these creative athletes at work because Worship will be presenting a film reel of professional and young riders (known as a “flow team”) demonstrating their skills.  The film, approximately 30 minutes, will be shown in the Donald L. Oat Theater.

Blayman describes Worship as a philosophy and not just a product. The artwork on the skateboards and the outreach behind the label speak of something more than making a profit. The brand’s motto, “Worship the ideal, not the idol,” is a paraphrased Greek quote that reflects this philosophy: averting the focus away from the label and directing it to where it really matters.

“It’s important that you like the art,” Blayman explained, “not the brand.”

Whatever interest you have in skateboarding, “Shred Sled Symposium” is a chance to find out how a skateboard project can become an ambassador for goodwill and creative expression.

“We’re not just some skate shop in Greenville,” Blayman said. “It’s something interesting and deeper going on in Norwich.”

-Joe Matovic

 

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