Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Annual Skate Deck Competition Brings the Streets to the Gallery

Skate decks painted by Utah artists as part of Urban Arts Gallery’s 13th Annual Skate Deck competition.

If you like your skateboard decks artistic, but whole, rather than chopped up and stitched together (see here), the Urban Arts Gallery’s annual skateboard deck competition may be your thing.

Every year in conjunction with the Utah Arts Alliance’s Urban Arts Festival, the gallery and streetwear shop located on the south end of the Gateway’s main drag sends out an open call for artists to participate in their skate deck show and competition. The only requirement is the art be created on a blank skate deck. This year you’ll find close to one hundred submissions lining the gallery’s exhibition space.

When, in the 1950s, skateboarding developed in California as an offshoot of the surfer culture, decks were initially handmade pieces of blonde wood. When brands entered the business, they soon began putting logos on their decks, followed by more intricate designs which drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including comics, hot rod culture and punk rock. In the 1970s and ‘80s, with the development of graffiti and street art and as skateboarding spread across the country, especially in urban areas, decks also became more personalized forms of expressions. Hanging them up in galleries seems almost an inevitable progression.

A wall of decks in which artists have used collage as their primary medium.


Two of several skateboards which reference octopuses in their designs

The rows of decks at Urban Arts Gallery seem, in some cases, to have been loosely organized by general categories: so you’ll find a whole wall of collaged decks. Another wall includes a reference to Spiderman comics and Manga. Octopuses seem to be a thing this year. A few of the artists you might recognize from the regular gallery circuit, like Vincent Mattina, but for the most part these will be new discoveries for the average gallery stroller.

The majority of artists have stuck to the 2-dimensional nature of the support, employing paint, collage, wood burning, etc.. So it’s likely you could screw in some trucks and ride these boards. But several have expanded the supports into a sculptural or relief mode. The glasses filled with plants attached to Brenna Woffinden’s board, or the in-utero baby on Nicole Bonnenfant’s will make riding impractical.

Detail of Brenna Woffinden’s “Hold on Tight Spider Monkey”

Detail of Nicole Bonnenfant’s “Breedingcore”

Years from now, when anthropologists study our civilization, will they go to our museum vaults to study our visual culture? Or will they look at the “popular” forms of visual art: our t-shirts and tattoos, street murals and skate decks? If you lean towards the latter, you’ll want to check out the Urban Arts Festival this weekend, Sep. 1 -3. During the first two days of the festival you’ll have the choice to vote for your favorite deck from the Urban Arts Gallery’s competition. Five winners will receive prizes. And, as the gallery’s website indicates, bragging rights.


13th Annual Skate Deck Show, Urban Arts Gallery, Salt Lake City, through Oct. 1

All images courtesy the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.