Skateboard art to deck-orate Rochester businesses

Rochester PSD takes the reins of annual event

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 9, 2017

 Grace Yang’s “The Phantom of the Rose” will be judged in the middle school category.

Grace Yang’s “The Phantom of the Rose” will be judged in the middle school category.

Photo provided by the Rochester Downtown Development Authority

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ROCHESTER — Over the past seven years, downtown Rochester’s Deck Art competition has grown by leaps and bounds.

Originally organized by South Street Skateshop and the former Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio, the first skateboard art competition invited artists of all ages to channel their skills and creativity to transform blank skateboard decks into works of art. After Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio closed, South Street Skateshop began partnering with the Rochester Downtown Development Authority to organize the event. The event has grown so much over the years that South Street Skateshop owner Linda Gallaher said it was time for the Rochester Principal Shopping District to take the reins.

“We will miss the hands-on part of it … but letting it go was to everybody’s benefit. It was just getting so big that we could no longer really function as this small team here putting on an event like that. It needed more people than what we had to do it,” Gallaher said. “It’s exciting for us to know that the PSD loved the event as much as we did and wanted to continue it. I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.”

In its inaugural year, Deck Art drew approximately 54 entries, which were on display at the two organizing businesses.

This year, close to 500 decks will be on display at nearly 60 businesses — both record numbers for the event, according to Rochester DDA Events Coordinator Stephanie Hellebuyck. 

“We have about 490 artists that have registered this year,” she said. “Typically we have had about 450, so we have seen an increase.”

The public is invited to view the artwork, which will be celebrated with a two-day event May 11-12.

The Rochester PSD will host the Deck Art 2017 Kickoff — which includes a sneak preview of Deck Art 2017, special promotions, and family and kids activities — 5-9 p.m. Thursday, May 11. The streets will be alive with street-side musical performances by Jennifer Kincer and Friends, and kids can partake in a craft activity located outside of 308 Main St.

The fun will continue Friday, May 12, with the official competition and an exhibition crawl 5-9 p.m. The crawl will begin at any participating business, where attendees and artists can pick up the official maps. Hellebuyck said artists are not given the location of their artwork, so they must “crawl” from business to business until their artwork is found.

The kids craft will continue outside of 308 Main St., and there will be a special performance by the Saline Fiddlers 7-9 p.m. at the corner of East Fourth and Main streets.

This year, a panel of judges from Painting with a Twist in Rochester Hills will select one winner from the five age categories — elementary school, middle school, high school, college and adult. Winning decks will be identified with a special ribbon.

Each year, organizers said, artists create one-of-a-kind artwork using skateboard decks as their canvas.

“Sometimes you don’t recognize it as a skateboard because they have manipulated the board so much, and that’s what makes it so interesting and something that really is thought-provoking,” Gallaher said. “One of the most unique pieces that I have seen was about five or six years ago. There was an artist that did hand-blown glass on her deck art. It was surprising to see, unexpected and just beautiful.”

People who like what they see can purchase some of the decks, as all artists have the option to sell their artwork. Hellebuyck said specific details can be found listed next to each deck.

For a list of participating businesses, visit DowntownRochesterMI.com. For more information, call (248) 656-0060.

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