Rocket Grants funding will enable the Columbus Park Skate Park to be executed on a larger scale than its scrappy beginnings, and to combine multiple features in a unique, functional design. Ben, Keelin and Garrett will bring in a professional skate park contractor to collaborate with them, teaching by example and effectively guiding the project to a more successful outcome, while providing participants with an opportunity to learn a skill set that is not present in Kansas City. The grant will also help to legitimize a young project seeking to build partnerships and expand its future possibilities.
Lead artist Ben Hlavacek says: “The Columbus Park Skate Park is a project that will build greater capacity for many types of self-expression. The more activity that happens in this lot the safer it will become, thus promoting additional creative uses. Through funding seasoned skateboarders/builders to offer lessons on skate park construction, the project will not only increase the raw skill of all involved but will generate community ties that will strengthen the neighborhood and generate one-on-one relationships that may not have previously existed.”
Structurally, the park will grow from what currently exists on site. There will be ramps, railings, barriers, and other obstacles commonly featured as part of the landscape of a skate park. The manual labor to construct all of this decorative concrete will be provided by residents of the Columbus Park neighborhood as well as by volunteers. The park will be collaboratively designed by the people who use it, even though the process will be facilitated by an experienced professional.
Up to this point, the construction of the park has been fairly informal; a community creating something for itself outside of the normal channels. Other attempts by the neighborhood to have the City clean up this abandoned street had made little progress; volunteers cleared sidewalks that were unusable due to neglect. The project collaborators have since received positive feedback from community leaders, the Neighborhood Association, and even individual police officers.
When the City discovered the project they initially reacted by trying to shut it down, but after an outpouring of community support and conversation they are now working to help move it forward and take the build-out into the bureaucratic daylight. Future stages of the project that are under discussion could potentially include pedestrian and bicycle areas to further enhance what would essentially become a car-free road, and an expansion into other neighborhoods
Every dollar spent on this project will ripple outwards into the community. It will create opportunities for local artists and local skateboarders, and provide a rallying point for a burgeoning community that has already shown its support for the project.
The Harrison Street DIY is a community project utilizing an unused and ill-kempt area of city property in the Columbus Park neighborhood of Kansas City. The cul-de-sac previously held a group of low-income housing units – until the Kansas City Housing Authority razed the land 15 years ago. In an attempt to stop the various illegal activities that began plaguing the area, barriers were placed to close off access.
These barriers were easily adaptable subjects for a DIY skate obstacle. After support from the community, the project grew and gained traction. As members of the neighborhood, the team is compelled to use the vacant space in an act of radical community engagement.
The project has been moving along very quickly, with a tremendous amount of support in unsolicited donations in funds and materials, which have reached approximately $1,400 without an organized fundraising effort.
The Columbus Park Skate Park project hopes to create a community-driven project that models a new approach for a hands-on and organic park planning and construction, in which the users play a role in every step of the process.
Ben Hlavacek is from Wichita, KS and has lived in Kansas City, MO since 2007. He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2012 with degrees in Photography and Creative Writing. He has participated in local exhibitions and group projects such as The Roost Gallery(2012-2014) and photography group Archive Collective (2014-ongoing). He has had photographs published in national and international skateboarding publications and has been skateboarding for 14 years.
Keelin Austin graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in 2010 and has been focusing on skateboarding since then. He was featured in 2 skateboarding video projects in 2014, one of which he collaboratively filmed and edited. Keelin was also a contributor to the community-built skate park on the unused tennis courts at Westport High School that existed from 2012-2013 which was very well used and liked amongst the community, despite it’s lack of permission and funding.
Garrett Rathbone is from McPherson, KS, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Film and Media Studies in 2013. While at the University of Kansas he placed 1st the 2012 Alt Games National College Skateboarding Championship. He moved to the Columbus Park neighborhood of Kansas City to follow a job opportunity in 2014. He has been skateboarding and constructing ramps off and on for 15 years.