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Skateboards share community art

Six skateboards designed by artists from Kahnawake and sister communities can be purchased at the Kanien'kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KOR). Courtesy KOR

Takahawi Beauvais had never tried making digital art on a computer when she decided to head down to the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KOR)’s dedicated Art Center, where community members can access art supplies and resources for free. 

“In the beginning, I was just using my fingers on my phone to make digital art,” Beauvais said. “But thanks to the KOR Art Center, I actually had the chance to use a stylus and use a computer. It made my art so much better.”

It was after spending some time at the Art Center that Beauvais decided to submit to the KOR annual skateboard design competition. She decided to submit her first-ever digital design, and to her surprise, her art was chosen to be made into one of this year’s skateboards.

Now, a skateboard with her design is available to buy from KOR, along with five other boards, each created by an artist from a sister community. 

“It’s beautiful. It’s so pretty. I was like, ‘Who did this? Did I do that?!’” she said. “It’s just so cool to actually see the whole picture of my design on the board.”

The project, which is in its third year, raises money through the sales of skateboards for Go Skate Day, an annual skateboarding event held on June 21 in Kahnawake, culminating in an outdoor community picnic. 

Alongside Beauvais’ artwork representing Kahnawake’s submission, designs are also made by individuals in Kanesatake (Kaysun Oke),  Akwesasne (Kanenrahtanó:ron Cook, Karennotakies Barnes), Kenhtè:ke (Michael Polak), and Wahta (Erin Strength). Boards, which have the designs printed on them, are being sold for $90.

“I’m trying to promote artists within our community as well as in other sister communities, and also to promote active bodies. It’s about just trying to promote a healthy community, the mind and the physical,” said Scott Berwick, KOR’s arts and archives department manager and coordinator of the project.

Berwick said the initiative has been a creative way to blend art and sport.

“It’s a lot of fun to see the different styles come in, I never know what to expect really, so I like that part of it and how they’re all touching on the culture and sometimes the language,” said Berwick. “It’s always tricky to choose what boards to use.”

This year’s designs feature a range of art styles, including a wampum-style piece, a piece featuring pictures of beadwork, and an alien abduction illustration. Beauvais’ piece features an owl, inspired by a video she saw of an owl in a church. She wanted to show how animals can bring certain spiritual messages.

“There was this owl dancing in a church, and people were trying to get it away, and I realized, ‘Oh, they think it’s evil,’ but really sometimes an owl is a messenger,” she said. “I decided he’d be carrying a peace pipe, and then I added golden rings, and filled it out with a buffalo and the Three Sisters – corn, beans, and squash.”

Beauvais said she spent days making the design at the Art Center, staying from 2 p.m. when it opened until it closed at 8 p.m.

“I felt like it was never long enough, I had the kind of focus that I could have probably spent the whole night on it and I wouldn’t have even noticed the time.”

Now that she’s mastered her first artwork on the computer, Beauvais hopes to continue growing her digital art skills at the Art Center. She’ll even be able to submit designs to the project for future use, as Berwick has this year changed the submission guidelines to allow for artists to submit work on an ongoing basis throughout the year. 

“I’m hoping we can generate a pool of artworks so that every year we can have a look at what we have in the inventory, and if artists submit something this year and we don’t choose them, it’s still in the pool for next year,” Berwick said. “Then they can submit as many artworks as they want, and I’m hoping it can pull in artists from communities further away too.”

Artists can find the board template and submit works at KORkahnawake.org/goskate, and boards – which come without hardware and wheels – can be purchased in-person at KOR during opening hours.

evedcable@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on February 9 in issue 33.06 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.