Rockford Art Museum opens skate art exhibit May 6

Staff Report

Rockford Art Museum (RAM) presents Full Deck: A Short History of Skate Art, an anthology of skate art from the 1960s to today. The exhibition kicks off with a free public opening from 5 to 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 6, and remains on view through Aug. 14 at RAM, 711 N. Main St., Rockford.

Since the first graphic was drawn onto a board (a “deck”), the culture of skateboarding has grown hand-in-hand with the visual arts. The skate culture’s embrace of individual style, approach and intention is what continues to draw new skaters to this renegade art practice—a hybrid in a realm of its own. The eye-catching images on the bottom of these skateboards are one of the purest forms of self-expression: highly personal and mostly created without artistic boundaries—just like skateboarding itself.

On view are more than 300 decks from artists, skaters and companies across the country, including rare boards from private collections, vintage and commercial boards, videos and photographs. Skate decks created by Rockford’s own Keith and Cole Grace (father and son) give the show a local spin.

Also on display are elegant one-of-a-kind hand-stained decks by Skip Engblom, co-founder of Zephyr Productions Surf Shop and the Zephyr Skate Team (the Z-Boys), and portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown.

The exhibition includes a collection of early vintage boards on loan from pro skater Sam Cunningham—including “Sidewalk Surfboard No. 1” by Nash Manufacturing—and a broad range of now rare commercial boards. A selection of skate photography by Bryce Kanights, Tobin Yelland are also on view.

The exhibition was organized by Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts (Walnut Creek, Calif.), curated by Carrie Lederer, and is traveling to museums and universities across North America. RAM Curator Patty Rhea is the exhibition curator for its first showing in the Midwest.

For more about the exhibition and related educational programming, call RAM at (815) 968-2787 or visit

Following are scheduled exhibition programs and events:

Ramp It Up Skate Jam—Saturday, June 4, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free to watch or $3 to skate. Partially sponsored by Rockford Park District, this outdoor skate event includes a skate team demo on the grounds of RAM. Entertainment by a DJ will be provided, as well as merchandise and displays by businesses involved in the skateboard and related industries. Ramps available for public use before the 3 p.m. demo for a $3 entry fee. Bring your own skateboard and safety equipment. Helmets required.

Teacher programming

Full Deck Teacher Workshop—Wednesday, May 11, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free for teachers; registration required by calling (815) 972-2880. Specifically designed for educators during the first week of the Full Deck: A Short History of Skate Art exhibition, this workshop starts with a private tour led by a museum docent. Following the tour, teachers will participate in a hands-on activity that directly corresponds with the exhibition and take home a packet containing supplemental educational material for classroom use.

Children’s programming

Decked Out!—Saturday, May 21, 2-4 p.m., for ages 10 and older. Cost is $20, all supplies included; registration required by calling (815) 972-2874. Customize your ultimate skate deck! Start off the class with a brand-new skateboard that’s waiting to be branded. Using paint, design your own dream board. All you need are some wheels, and you’ll be set to show off your skills.

Full Deck: Design Trading Cards—Saturday, June 18, 2-4 p.m., for ages 6 and older. Cost is $8, all supplies included; registration required by calling (815) 972-2874. Sick of swapping the same trading cards with your friends? In this rad class, you will create your own custom trading cards using Sharpies and a blank deck of cards to keep or trade.

Sweet Threads—Saturday, July 9, 2-4 p.m., for ages 6 and older. Cost is $8, most supplies included; registration required by calling (815) 972-2874. Who says your art masterpiece has to stay on a canvas? You can share your favorite drawings with everyone, right on your chest! Wear your original art designs by creating an iron-on transfer for your T-shirt. Students must bring a plain white T-shirt to class.

RAM is inside Riverfront Museum Park at 711 N. Main St., Rockford. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; and noon-5 p.m., Sunday. Admission is $7 adults, $3 students/seniors, free for children younger than 12 and RAM members. Donation Day is every Tuesday.

From the May 4-10,2011 issue

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