Skateboarding and Art Collide: The Need for a Skate Park in Youngstown

By Frances Clause

Over 50 artists from Bliss Kids Collective used skateboard decks as their canvas to prove “Youngstown Wants to Skate,” an initiative to build a skatepark where the Youngstown BMX community can ride, grind and railslide safely.

According to Heather Seno, a Youngstown State University alumna and co-founder of the group, Bliss Kids Collective is a unique coalition of Youngstown-affiliated artists participating in exhibition-driven challenges.

“Upon graduation, a group of our classmates realized that art life without project structures and critiques left us very lost. [Co-founder Steph Blair] and I gathered some of our friends to create a house show on the North side,” she said.

After that opening, Seno and Blair wanted to continue this concept, and they began to develop Bliss Kids Collective.

“Each show has a new prompt or challenge to ensure we are all creating new work, and due to the many modes and aesthetics of working, we use these prompts to unite the show visually,” Seno said.

The group travels to different venues to highlight alternative art spaces in the community and encourages people to view those spaces in a new way.

The skateboard decks were displayed and sold at Coy Cornelius Studios in October and Ward Bakery Market in November. Proceeds were donated to the skate park project, where $1,000 has been raised so far.

“We teamed up with one of our group’s active artists, Dakota Jackson, to build this fundraiser around the show,” Seno said.

The group also worked with area shops, including Stuck in Ohio Productions, The Shop Streetwear and Desired Designs, and it had a sponsorship with Penguin City Brewing Company.

“Over the year of doing these shows for our collective, each show has grown in popularity,” Seno said. “This show was amplified due to the sponsorships and combining forces of two communities: skate kids and art kids.”

In Seno’s opinion, the university is thriving, but downtown Youngstown lacks alternative activities to bars and food.

“We have friends in this community who skate, and now some of them have kids who skate,” she said. “The addition of a nice skate park could add to the community in many ways for recreation and competitions, potentially bringing another tourism factor and could grow student activities.”

Michelle Gabriel, a senior graphic design major, said she believes Bliss Kids Collective is an important group to the community.

“I think having something like this in a community brings people together in a way that nothing else can,” she said. “It’s definitely nice to go to concerts and other local events, but it’s so much more amazing to have a big group of people all be able to create something and then see all their individual work together.”

Gabriel used paints for her skateboard deck and wrote motivational messages, aiming to do something lighthearted and fun.

“I definitely want to keep creating work for the Bliss Kids Collective. It pushes me in a lot of different ways to be a better designer and illustrator, which is something that you can’t really get from just working alone or from clients and school projects,” she said.

Anastasia Truby, a YSU alumna, said she joined Bliss Kids Collective to get more involved in the Youngstown art community, and she sees “Youngstown Wants to Skate” as essential to the city.

“[The skate park] is a good idea because people can have fun and meet each other in a safe place and share a hobby that they all enjoy,” she said.

A possible location being discussed for the skate park is between the Market Street Bridge and the Covelli Centre. For more information about Bliss Kids Collective’s upcoming shows, email [email protected].

Skateboard decks designed by Bliss Kids Collective lined a hall in Ward Bakery Market, where visitors could contribute to a fundraiser for a skate park in Youngstown. Photo by Frances Clause/The Jambar