Project Skate – Art without language

Project Skate – Art without language


Carla Wall, General Manager of the COINS Australia office, writes about Project Skate, a social enterprise strategy designed to sustain Big hART’s vital community projects within Australia, supported by COINS Australia in partnership COINS Foundation.

It’s Saturday evening at the White Night event in Melbourne and I am walking through the pedestrianized city center with over 600,000 people. You can feel an untapped excitement hanging in the air. As the crowds build, we all share a common interest in the night skies turning to dusk and the city celebrating art, culture and creativity until dawn!

Upon arrival at the Riverslide, I find the concrete skate park consisting of ramps, jumps, pipes and steps. Various areas of the concrete are painted in blue, allowing the surface to become a visual canvas as dusk hits. This is complimented by the amazing backdrop of towering city skyscrapers and the Yarra River, nestled within Alexandra Gardens on a late summer’s evening.

Big hArt Project Skate

The White Night event was providing the platform for Big hART ‘s Project Skate to kick off, seeking to find a minimum of 10 skilled skateboarders. The aim is to bring raw talent from galvanized skateboarders into a studio environment, creating a skateboard-based live performance for touring theatres. Think of the show, Stomp , however, this show will be on wheels! The show is aimed at mainstream audiences that will combine the use of pioneering lighting ( ENESS – think Tron), sounds, movement, 3D projection mapping and motion capture. The Skate Project is also a social enterprise strategy designed to generate funds to sustain Big hART’s vital community projects within Australia.

There is a cute café come skate shop, where I began to discover skateboarding isn’t just a sport - it’s a way of life with its very own ethos. The art, fashion, language, music and design are as important to skateboarding as the individual’s performance on the ramps. In the words of Tony Hawk:

“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport.” 

An example of one kind of such art is displayed inside the café, where I discovered a wall covered in ‘board-art’ skateboards.

Big hArt Project SkateOn the veranda of the café, we sip hot tea and coffee while avid skateboarders sign up for Project Skate. They begin to take to the park and applaud each other for the Aciddrops, Air, Melongrabs and many other tricks with strange names that are being performed as they too wait for dusk to set in. Other skateboarders sit and wait patiently sharing exciting boarding-related stories. It struck me that many of them did not know each other, yet there was a clear relationship that existed within this subculture of a community; one where there was a willingness to mingle with one another, a mutual respect and showing of support and encouragement brought together by their common bond of skateboarding.

When the majority of people think about Australia, they do not think about poverty and inequality. We pride ourselves on being lucky – we have an extremely safe and peaceful multicultural country, with a comprehensive welfare system, schools and hospitals available to everyone. Yet this statistic speaks for itself – there are 1-1.5 million people living in poverty in Australia, that’s 6% of the population. Many of these individuals face deep social exclusion, with little hope of escaping it. COINS Australia , in partnership with Big hART and COINS Foundation seek to be a force for good, supporting social enterprise and sustainable development within these forgotten communities.

Over the last 25 years, Big hART has created some of Australia’s largest and most ambitious long-term arts projects, working off the beaten track around the country. One such project that COINS Australia/COINS Foundation recently invested in is the Namatjira project , which resulted in a touring theater show, a watercolor exhibition and multiple workshops. This left a fantastic legacy for the Namatjira family and Western Aranda communities as well as 100% of the profits generated being reinvested back into big hART and COINS Foundation charitable projects .

Monday morning I contacted Scott Rankin (Australian theater director, writer, co-founder and Creative Director of Big hART ) to see how the team went with securing the 10 skilled skateboarders – they had more, great news! Over the coming two weeks, a series of workshops will be held as part of the audition process, prior to final selection. This is a fantastic opportunity for the skateboarders, life changing for many, as they will be paid professionally to perform in the show.

8:30pm has arrived – dusk is finally upon us and the excitement among the skateboarders, spectators and organizers is building. The visual spectacle of music, movement and skateboarding commences. Participants take to the ramps as the music and lights seemed to intertwine with explosions of color and sounds as the tricks are performed. I begin to see the vision unfolding of what will eventually become an amazing show.

I found skateboarding has a little bit of everything for everyone. Skateboarding is inexpensive, opening it up to all communities. Your skateboard can take you to many places, it’s going to make you friends with all different kinds of people, all over the city and, when the Skate show kicks off, potentially the world. You can hurt yourself, it can be dangerous, but it’s also completely free and there are no rules at the Skate Parks! When Skateboarders fall down, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again. ‘Life is a lot like skateboarding!’


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