As both an artist and skateboarding enthusiast—and self-proclaimed “skate dad”—Gabriel Pons, owner and operator of the PONSHOP art gallery and studio in Fredericksburg, Va., saw an opportunity for a community collaboration when his son asked why the local area doesn’t have a quality skate park.
After sporadic community efforts since 2013 to update Brooks Memorial Skatepark in neighboring Stafford County to a modernized and fully functional skate destination, Pons wanted to reignite the initiative this year. Working with local skateboard enthusiasts Mark Eyestone, owner of Fredericksburg’s Magic Bullet skate shop, and Donald Patterson, another community “skate dad” who spearheaded the Fredericksburg Skate Park Project, the idea for Art for Park was born.
Pons recalled, “My son Diego is twelve and in the fall we were going to the Northern Virginia skate parks in Leesburg and Fairfax. And he asked, ‘Why don't we have a park like this?’ And I said, ‘Well, there's an effort.’ Following that, I thought, ‘I have to do a show.’ I know that format-wise a lot of people have asked about painting skateboards … I've been kind of known as the ‘skateboard deck art’ guy. So who better to host [a show of that kind] than us?”
Art for Park is being hosted from March 2 through April 29th at 712 Caroline St. in Fredericksburg, Va.
Each artist participant in Art for Park paid a $40 flat entry fee for the blank deck, the wooden portion of the skateboard, and then returned the finished piece in time to be displayed in the PONSHOP gallery. March’s exhibit featured more than 12 artistically designed decks and April’s show will include 50-plus submissions. Five dollars from every artist registration and 20 percent of all deck sales will benefit the park initiative. With both PONSHOP shows at capacity, the series will continue with a fresh round of boards at local restaurant The Sunken Well in May. This is PONSHOP’s 11th community art exhibit.
To Pons, the shows are just a start to help the local skate park efforts. “It’s going to take a much more robust community effort from public and private [sectors] as well as an interface with Stafford Parks and the economic development authority. But I think our ability to actually have a place, like a physical space [to host the effort], will hopefully lend itself to that. My long-term goal is that we pick up what they call ‘angel sponsors’ or donors. We need organizations and businesses that are willing to literally step up in terms of monetary sponsorship. My second goal, and this is more of a self-imposed one, is that we continue to sustain the effort.”
He estimates about $500,000 is needed to completely update the Brooks Park Skatepark to make it a true skateboarding destination.
How To Get Involved
Pons is a perfect example of how anyone can spearhead efforts for a community cause. What has to be kept in mind is the continuation of efforts after kick-off events.
“It's very easy to do a fundraiser once and have a big party,” he noted. “But it's a lot more challenging to look at the long-term goal and say, ‘OK, it’s going to take four or five years until construction. What moves can we make now to make sure that it's always in the front of people's minds?’ For instance, [county] board members … come and go, [but the cause should] still positioned so that it's accounted for.”
The Art for Park cause will continue and skate decks will be accepted from all over the U.S. In addition, PONSHOP will host the 14th annual Art for Recovery, which supports the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB). The show features original artwork by adults with mental health challenges and is organized by members of Kenmore Club, RACSB’s group for adults with severe mental illness. Coinciding with National Mental Health Month, the exhibit will open Friday, May 4, at PONSHOP and runs through May 27.
For more information on PONSHOP’s upcoming shows for causes, visit ponshopstudio.com. To purchase a deck from the Art for Park series, visit ponshopstudio.com/art4park/.