WASHINGTON — The art of skateboarding is getting some cultured respect.
“I think it’s amazing to be skating on the plaza for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,” says Patti Hurst from Arlington. “I mean, who would’ve thought that the arts establishment in Washington, D.C. would welcome skateboarding for a week of fun and creativity and innovation.”
The event, Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media, is occupying the front plaza of the Kennedy Center. Following the rhythmic clack, clack, clack of skateboard wheels rolling over seams in the pavement leads to a well-apportioned, if temporary, skatepark.
In the spot where limousines typically drop off well-dressed patrons of opera and theater there are 10-foot-tall skate ramps covered in graffiti. The driving drumbeats of punk rock replace the melodic strings of symphony.
It’s one big culture jam.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid… and never dressed like this,” says Tom Roszkowski, wearing skate shoes, shorts and a blue “Skate Ambassador” T-shirt. “We always had to put on our suits and act well-behaved. And this is totally the opposite of that.”
There are free public skate sessions every day through Sunday, but the exhibit goes beyond the act of skateboarding. It also examines the art of skateboarding. Inside the Kennedy Center exhibits showcase the work of local and international artists.
There are films and panel discussions through this nine-day program. The apex event comes on Friday and Saturday as Jason Moran and the Bandwagon perform live jazz, improvising off of pro-skaters who, in turn, improvise off the music.
Daryl G, a skateboarder from Woodbridge, says the interaction of skaters and art and culture makes the entire week remarkable.
“You can actually sit here and touch a pro skater, like talk to them and skate with them, it’s not like you see them on TV or at some event. It’s just a regular session like you’re at the skate park,” Daryl says.
Spectators line the fencing that cordons the street skate area. Inside, kids accomplish their first kicks and glides as more experienced skaters find their lines.
The Kennedy Center plaza echoes with the scraping of metal on metal of trucks grinding rails and the dull thud of wheels rolling over plywood. But, only for a few more days.
“This is surreal that its in front of a national monumental building,” Daryl says. “You gotta come get it while you can.”
So, what to do once this plaza returns to its natural state? Roszkowski has an idea.
“I always think they should build something near the American History Museum since skateboarding is a part of American history, have a living sculpture out front with people skateboarding on it all the time. That would be awesome,” Roszkowski says.