Skate park graffiti matter of taste

FORT FRANCES—Anyone passing by the new Kiwanis skate park here lately will have noticed some users have been busy making their mark on the equipment, resulting in what some might call “graffiti.”
And while some local residents may think the skateboarders’ artwork to be an eyesore, others are saying the graffiti is just part of the culture.
Two local skateboarders at the park Tuesday—Josh Strain and Jacob Perusse—said the appearance of the graffiti was inevitable, and is common at skate parks elsewhere.
But they made the distinction between the more detailed art (some of which even is stenciled) that adorns the park and some of the more amateurish sketches and “tags” (or signatures) that also can be found there.
“I like the stuff that’s good,” said Strain.
“I like the good stuff,” echoed Perusse. “You can tell when people take their time.”
Both Strain and Perusse noted most of the graffiti at the park is not obscene or otherwise negative (and wouldn’t be recognizable to the untrained eye even if it was), and the little amount that might be questionable isn’t necessarily approved by all the park’s users.
“That just gives us a bad reputation,” said Strain, pointing to a small doodle of a marijuana plant.
“The culture of skateboard parks, in general, is they get graffiti’d,” skate park chair Rob Tovey said in an interview Friday.
He added that during the skate park’s planning stages last year, Andrew Kondrat of Barkman Concrete told the committee that users of the park undoubtedly would make their mark on the park—something Kondrat felt was a good sign because it shows the users have a sense of ownership in, and hopefully responsibility for, the facility.
“If you go into Winnipeg and look at their parks, or the one in Thunder Bay or the ones in the U.S., they all have it. It’s part of the culture of skateboarding,” said Tovey.
“As long as it’s not offensive, who are they hurting?”
Still, Tovey said the town owns the land the park is built on and ultimately it will decide what they want to do about the graffiti.
“It’s a matter of personal perspective. People look at it in different ways,” Mayor Dan Onichuk said Monday. “When you look at other skate parks in larger centres, there’s graffiti.
“Was it something that was likely to happen? Yes.”
He added the question of whether it’s in “bad taste” really is a “matter of personal perspective”—as long as the graffiti doesn’t include foul language or images.
“Things could have been decorated in an organized way,” the mayor noted. “I know in other communities, they actually have had an open house where they provide kids and artists with paints and actually allow it [the graffiti] to happen.”
Tovey also mentioned this idea, noting it’s something that still may be done here.
When asked what they thought about such a community art project, both Perusse and Strain said it might not be a bad idea.
“If they got real artists to paint on it, that would be cool,” remarked Perusse, adding the park shouldn’t be left its original grey colour.
The mayor said the graffiti does seem to be more noticeable here because, unlike some larger urban centres, it is not a common sight in Fort Frances.
“It’s part of an environment. It’s not my environment, but from young people’s perspective, it might be what they want to see,” said Mayor Onichuk, adding he felt council still needs to debate whether it thinks the graffiti is “appropriate or inappropriate”—and act accordingly.
Tovey noted any graffiti to the skate park is not permanent. Components are covered with a “graffiti-proof” coating that can be removed if need be, taking any undesirable graffiti with it.
A new coating then would be re-applied.
< *c>Brick campaign
In other news, the skate park committee is gearing up to re-launch its “Buy A Brick” campaign this fall, with the aim to raise funds and pay back the town, which agreed to provide bridge financing last month.
“We wanted to wait until the summer was over because we figured everybody was too tied up,” said Tovey. “We’re hoping to sell 500 bricks.”
The committee is banking on the brick campaign to raise significant funds to pay for the skate park. Bricks cost $100 each, and will be installed at the skate park with an individual, family, or company name on it.
Anyone wanting to buy a brick can call Tovey at 274-6113.
As previously reported, the skate park committee got a helping hand from the town after council voted at its July 10 meeting in favour of a bridge financing agreement with it.
Under the agreement, the town will pay the outstanding invoices, in the amount of $107,473.82, to contractors, with the Kiwanis Club and skate park committee continuing fundraising activities until a minimum of half the balance (roughly $54,000) is raised.
Tovey noted the skate park committee also is planning a grand opening, likely in conjunction with the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition, sometime next month (possibly Sept. 17).
The RRVSC will be on hand to give out some safety tips for skateboarders.
More details will be released once they’re confirmed.
(Fort Frances Times)