Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chuck Crawford, New School Professor of Architecture, on Skateparks

In response to the battle brewing over a proposed skatepark at Watts Tower in LA:
A skate park at Watts Towers is a brilliant idea to promote and support the arts and I am perplexed that my fellow artists are expressing concern. They complain of noise? John Cage would be recording the music the skaters will make! If they were still alive, Andy Warhol would relocate the factory and Merce Cunningham would come to study the natural ballet that is skateboarding.

Drugs and gangs? No. You can't skateboard when on drugs; on the contrary, skate parks offer a relief and an alternative from drugs and gangs. Besides, this is not a rock club; skate parks are far from noisy. Graffiti? Skaters don't desecrate their homes.

One detractor is quoted as saying, "How would we feel about . . . a skate park in the vicinity of the Getty or LACMA?" What a great idea! We attract our youth for the athletics and encourage them to stay for the art. We should build skate parks next to every cultural institution.

As an artist and an educator, I have had numerous students who started with skateboards, moved on to punk and graduated into the arts. Build the park and "the two city-run arts centers" nearby will be flooded with young men and women who would have never come before seeking new outlets for their creative energy. Skateboarding is a creative, positive and, yes, artistic activity, and we gravely misunderstand its role when we label it destructive.

Build it and they will come. It may not produce a lot of tourist dollars, but there's little doubt that it will produce more than a few future artists.

Chuck Crawford

San Diego

The writer is a professor of architecture at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego and a part-time skateboarder.

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