Artists and skateboarders subscribe to a similar ethos: There are no rules. Perhaps that’s why so many members of the skateboarding community are also artists in one way or another. That commonality has prompted the upcoming Plank Canvas Art Show, a free exhibition hosted by Denver Squarehouse, an indoor skate park and venue for Square State Skate. The event will take place on Saturday, May 14, and will showcase the work of more than forty local artists of all creative backgrounds and disciplines, but each using the same canvas: the back of a reclaimed skateboard.
“I’m hoping and really encouraging all the artists to make it as weird as they want,” says Kyle Garlock, creative director of Square State Skate. “Subject-matter wise, material wise…we’ve got people that are doing photography, a sculpture-woodworking thing. We’ve got painting, someone doing a CNC router-type thing. And that was my hope. We’re all gonna start with a blank canvas, a plank of wood, and how crazy can we get with it?”
The Square State Skate team of Garlock, owner Brian Ball and managing director David Biddle found themselves in January with a surplus of skateboards that were either warped, heat-damaged, chipped or otherwise un-skateable. Garlock had the idea to use them as canvases when he thought about how so many of his co-workers were creatives. “Originally it was just gonna be staff,” he says, explaining that most employees would start on art projects after work. But he also thought of the “super talented people that are just our friends,” he adds. Throwing his net out to the larger community brought the art show to life.
An artist and illustrator himself, Garlock posted a call for artists on his Instagram to see if anyone else in the community would be interested in contributing. The idea snowballed as more and more people responded, and soon Garlock had to find more boards and step into the role of community organizer. “Denver’s not the biggest city," he says, "but it’s got so many different people who are super talented, super interesting, doing a lot of cool stuff, and they were very eager to jump in on this.”
Almost all of the artists in the show are involved in or connected to the skating community in some way. “I don’t know if this could’ve worked in other places,” says Garlock. “But I think it’s because there are so many different outdoor public skate parks [in Colorado] and so much interest in skating, it fell into place pretty nicely.”
Denver's skateboarding community is an active, vibrant part of the city’s culture, and Square State Skate is a key player in the foundation and growth of it. With locations in both Denver and Boulder, Square State Skate makes skateboarding accessible to the youth of these communities by partnering with various schools to provide P.E. programs and after-school sessions, as well as private lessons and full-day skate camps. Its summer programming also offers a variety of summer camps, lessons and the highly anticipated overnight camping trips, where skaters spend five days camping and skating together in mountain towns such as Gunnison, Breckenridge and Vail.
Square State Skate also offers some adult programming, like private lessons and its ‘adult swim’ sessions at the Boulder location. And recently, instructors have enjoyed seeing parents come in for lessons with their kids and watching the kids cheer their parents on. “Those are some of the best moments, when the kid is teaching the parent,” Garlock says.
While the Boulder SquareHouse has been operating since 2010, the Plank Canvas Art Show will be one of its first big events at the Denver location, which opened in the spring of 2021. “I love working with kids, but there’s a lot more to the community than just ages five through fifteen,” says Garlock. He’s hoping that this show will be an opportunity for the whole of the skateboarding community to simply come together and have a good time. “It’s an event for everybody,” he promises.
There is sure to be a wide variety of original artwork in different mediums at the show. Most will be a surprise, but some standouts include an oil paint and gold leaf piece by Erin Jones, photography by Ted Heron, an acrylic and latex paint piece by Blake Holland, intricate Sharpie art by Eric J. Eckert and a mixed-media paper collage with acrylic paint by Jessie Lemmon. Another exciting feature will be a piece by street artist Chris Haven, whose emblematic work you can see all around Denver.
While the event is free, all of the participating artists are given the option to sell their plank at the show, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to them. They are also invited to bring any other artwork and merchandise they want to show, so there will be a whole section of other original artwork alongside the skateboard decks.
“I’m excited to see just the range...because none of [the art] looks even remotely the same,” says Garlock. “Kind of like skating, [art can be] so different with how you interpret it. Some people are into big-transition skating, some people like freestyle, some people like mini ramp. You can take it any direction. It’s whatever you want it to be. With skating and art, no one’s gonna tell me to do it or not do it, or how to do it. And strangely, it motivates you to do it even more.”
Plank Canvas Art Show, 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 14, Denver SquareHouse, 4321 Broadway, #4, 720-441-4047.