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The Kennedy Center (Finally) Gets a Skatepark

'Finding a Line' brings skateboarding, music, and fine art together at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
September 4, 2015, 7:30pm
Ben Ashworth. Photo by John Falls

From September 4-13, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC will host a festival celebrating the skateboarding subculture in America and its connections to other artforms. Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media showcases the “creative ties and improvisational elements” shared between music, the visual arts, and skateboarding by putting on over a week's worth of art shows, open skate sessions, and musical performances.

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The festival is curated by the Kennedy Center Artistic Director of Jazz, Jason Moran, as well as local artist and professional skater Ben Ashworth. Moran’s early exposure to skate films featuring jazz soundtracks allowed him to realize the shared elements of improvisation and adaptability between music and skateboarding. He hopes to reveal this connection by accompanying the open skate sessions with live music.

Art On Deck - Cuba Skate. Photo by Supa Joe

With help from the Kennedy Center Staff, George Mason University Students, and local skateboarding enthusiasts, Ashworth, known for his work on skate parks, including Green Skate Lab in Northeast Washington DC and Bridge Spot in Capitol Hill, led the construction process for the festival, transforming the art center’s main entrance plaza into a skater's dream: the centerpiece of the park is an open bowl/half-pipe pool, surrounded by additional smaller ramps and other skateable fixtures.

The day to day festival events are to be hosted by a collection of skate collectives including: Palace 5ive, Pitcrew, Buhi World, sPACYcLOUd, Art Under Pressure, Grand National, Cuba Skate, East Coast Round Wall Foundation (ECRW), Concrete Bombers, Dads Skateboards, The DC Wheels, and Dust Farm. Each crew will participate in a skate session documented by their own photographers and videographers on their respective, designated days. The collectives are also responsible for selecting a musical performance to accompany and enhance the experience of their show. The roster of featured skaters includes two alumni from VICE's Epicly Later’D series, Elissa Steamer and Ray Barbee, amongst other regionally and nationally acclaimed riders.

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In additional to the spectacle, the festival is hosting three exhibitions in the center’s Hall of Nations. Cuba Skate, a D.C-based nonprofit that supports the Cuban skateboarding community, is putting on a show called Art on Deck, a collection of custom-designed, handpainted skateboard decks. From the Forest to The Streets is another show of custom designed decks and fine artworks, presented by the founder of Element Skateboards, Johnny Schillereff. And lastly, The Nation Skate: What you can do for your country is a photography series that looks at skateboard ambassadors around the world, presented by Neftalie Williams.

We got some images of the park’s construction. Check them out below:

Click here to learn more about Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media.

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