Back in my day, the term ‘skateboarder’ was synonymous with ‘hooligan’. They were portrayed as ruffians, and law-breakers, and the bullies in every afterschool special. For every Marty McFly (who even then was a rather ambivalent agent of karma) there were ten Griff Tannens. But a couple of decades (and three awesome movies) later, skaters have shed that stigma. When one of their own passed away last year, they and the community came together to honor him with a memorial skate park.
Isaac Miller of Fredericton was just fourteen years old when he passed away in his sleep one night in 2014. He had been an avid skateboarder, and very active within that community from a young age. Shortly after his passing, his friends formed a facebook group in support of naming the long-time project of creating a Fredericton skatepark in his memory.
Marc Landry of Skateboard Fredericton Inc. explains that the two facilities currently in use in the city aren’t sufficient for the active community, “Fredericton has needed one for quite a while. It’s not just a bigger park that is required, but a better quality park. The parks that are currently in use, were not designed by skatepark designers and are based on an outdated model.” As a friend to both Isaac and his step-mother, artist Deanna Musgrave, Marc says he was happy to promote the project that Isaac had been so passionate for.
Since Isaac’s passing $15,000 has already been raised, and a fundraiser hopes to double that amount; enough to purchase the $30,000 design plans. Deanna explains it wasn’t long after Isaac’s death that she and Isaac’s father, Andrew Miller, began turning their thoughts to how this memorial could be made possible, “First thing I thought of was an art fundraiser. Artists take care of their own, and Mark Landry does skateboard art with his students. He offered me a skate board to have at one of the fundraisers as a door prize. I said, ‘What if we got 30 from 30 artists?'”
The result has been an outpouring of support, surpassing their goal of thirty artists, then fifty, then seventy. Each artist donating either a uniquely decorated skateboard, or providing a piece of art to be auctioned off. More than it simply being a matter of having friends in the community, Deanna suspects that support comes from the solidarity of a certain lifestyle, “Skateboarders I think feel a bit misunderstood. They have community together, but yet, they’re also working on their craft singularly. That’s a lot like a painter. Painters are generally misunderstood by society. They work alone, but have community together. This is helping the community too, because it is so hard when you see someone that you care about have such a loss, and feel powerless to do anything other than say, ‘I’m sorry for your grief’. This gives a physical action for something that they can do, and I think it helps them, as much as it’s helping make a skate park, and it helps me in my grief knowing they would be willing to donate an artwork that would pay them $1,000”
” A skate park is going to benefit children, and that’s something Isaac would have wanted.”
Deanna is also looking for the park to incorporate a plaque in memory to Isaac, or perhaps even some design elements, “There are some interesting ways that Isaac’s name can become part of the design of the park. Like giant concrete letters the kids could skate on that say Isaac Miller.” Organisers are hoping that once the design plans are purchased, a location can be settled on with the city of Fredericton, and finally be able to attract some large sponsors to cover the $500k needed for construction.
While that might seem a long way off, everyone involved has been pleased with how the project, and the skater community, have been embraced. Marc says, “It’s nice to know that people and non-skaters see a need for a well made skateboard park. It’s nice to know that some people get it. I like when ideas become a reality. I like the fact that I get to meet a ton of artists and I like the old skate decks as a medium. There is a synthesis of ideas at play but at the same time, each artist brings his or her unique perspective. It’s cool to see so many different approaches and styles. I’m feeling good about the show.”
An online auction is being held for the artwork until June 3rd, when final bids will be taking place between 5-7pm at the Fredericton playhouse where they’ve been on display for the past month. For more information visit the Isaac Miller Memorial Skatepark or Skateboard Fredericton Inc.