Instead of coat tails and dresses, the patrons who crowded the Front Plaza of The Kennedy Center wore Vans, helmets and torn denim jeans.
They weren’t there to see a show.
They were there to skate.
Skateboarders raced on their boards to the iconic theater to participate in Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music and Media, a two-week long skateboarding expo, put together by The Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz Jason Moran and festival curator Ben Ashworth, that explores the relationship between the improvisational natures of skateboarding and music.
“We used to get kicked out of here in the late eighties, early nineties, trying to skate out here,” recounted 43-year-old Jimmy Pelletier, one of the festival’s coordinators. “So it’s funny to come back legally on top of water fountains, on a rock stage, with a bowl inside and unify the whole city and surrounding areas with skateboarding.”
A skate park, complete with an enormous skate bowl, rails, grind boxes, a half pipe and a wide open street-skating area, filled the usually empty space before the Hall of Nations. And it wasn’t just the youth who were taking advantage of the prestigious theater grounds, participants of all ages crowded the edge of the bowl waiting for their turn to drop in.
“This is awesome!” said Rob Fall, a 27-year-old skateboarder. “When ever would you have a chance to be at The Kennedy Center skateboarding, you know?”
Fall said his favorite part of the festival, besides high-fiving his friends, was responding to the live music.
“When the music’s playing that’s when I think skating’s the best,” said Fall. “To be honest, when the music’s going that’s when people are skating harder, going faster–less cares are involved then.”
Musical performances at the festival featured artists ranging from punk rock bands, such as Loud Boyz, to hip-hop deejays such as KERIMtheDJ. Moran, the artistic director for jazz at The Kennedy Center, and his band The Bandwagon, will perform at the festival Sept. 11 and 12.
Young skateboarders at the event weren’t intimidated by shredding in the same bowl as skaters who were nearly five times their age.
“It takes you away,” said 11-year-old local skateboarder Trent Jet. “When skateboarding hurts you, it makes you tougher.
Jet’s friend, 12-year-old Cordell Green, who is a member of Pelletier’s DC-based philanthropic skateboarding group The DC Wheels, said this event was a unique opportunity to do something he’d normally never get to do.
“When do you ever get to build a bowl in front of The Kennedy Center and skate it and not be kicked out?” Cordell said. “That’s just rare.”
Following the festival’s conclusion, Pelletier said all of the infrastructure will possibly be donated to Dupont Underground, an emerging art exhibit that is repurposing the abandoned trolley station beneath Dupont Circle. He said this would be a great opportunity to give DC its first indoor skate park, something he believes is much needed by the local skateboarding community.
According to some skateboarders, though, the artistic venue isn’t necessary for their craft. It’s simply the act itself that is artistic.
“I think of skateboarding as an art, and each one who rides around is an artist,” said 11-year-old Jonathan Snede, a D.C. skateboarder. “And when they do their tricks, that’s their art.”
Finding a Line will be taking place everyday at various times on the Front Plaza of The Kennedy Center until Sept. 13.
Feature Photo Credit: Josh Loock, Bloc Reporter.
Josh Loock is a senior broadcast journalism and film studies major and can be reached at email@example.com.
Ryan Eskalis is a senior broadcast journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.