Art on Deck: Cleveland’s Skateboarding Community Gets Another Push from Breakneck Gallery


By Nikki Delamotte

2012 very well may be the year of the skateboard in Cleveland. With the onslaught of recent and well-deserved press for pro-skate renegades Public Square Group, the conversation about a culture in transit — pedestrians, cyclists and boarders living harmoniously in the city — has become an art in its own right.

Kristen Burns, co-owner of alternative art spot Breakneck Gallery, heard about Public Square Group while working her part-time gig at the Spitfire Saloon where her boss is on the organization’s board. Former skaters themselves, Kristin and Breakneck partner Sean Burns wanted to get involved with PSG’s support for civic engagement and the arts in the skate community. “We both skated as kids,” Kristin explains, “and what PSG does for kids skating now is awesome. They’re a really great group.” Breakneck put out a call to local artists to experiment with skate decks as their canvass, a show appropriately titled Art Deck-O.

Art Deck-O takes the long-standing love affair of art and the deck displayed on sidewalks and half-pipes and puts it right on the walls of one of the west side’s most assessable galleries. “We both feel the skateboarding culture and art go hand-in-hand,” Kristin says, “especially when it comes to the decks.”

Kristen and Sean recognize skate art is no new concept – these days, decks double as home décor. But they also know the free-form individuality and off-the-cuff creativity that has always intertwined within the art of the sport also mirrors the art of the deck: “It’s amazing to see where different artists will go when they all start from the same simple piece of wood.”

Art Deck-O runs from June 16 to July 6. For gallery hours visit Breakneck Gallery’s website.


Jason Tilk, The Yoyo Syndicate/Dr. Sketchy Cleveland/Pinch and Squeal

Jason Tilk met Breakneck co-owner Richard Burns at a Cleveland Institute of Art alumni meeting. “I heard he was doing a skate deck show,” Jason explains, “and I jumped on the opportunity to submit to it. I have always had a passion for skateboarding since I was a kid skating on an old Christian Hosoi hammerhead. Being an artist and designer, I thought it would be great to finally take a stab at designing my own.”

One half of a traveling Cleveland vaudeville act – he’s the Pinch of Pinch and Squeal – Tilk drew on the artistry of magic’s folklore for his deck. “I read a lot of old magic books and have always loved the illustrations and poster art for magic acts,” says Tilk. “So thinking about what would make a sweet illustration I came up with the idea to make a ‘trick deck’, playing off of playing card tricks and skate tricks.”

Angela Oster, Illustrator

Angela Oster, a Cleveland illustrator with two decks in the show, decided to take part in Art Deck-O when fellow artists James Giar offered to sand down a board for her. “I grew up in Parma and spent a lot of time in the basement of Doc’s Shake Shop listening to skate bands practice,” she says. “I had never painted on decks before but I had seen some that the artist Fafi had done, so I was excited to translate some of my drawings to that elongated format.”



Feature Head Writer, Content Development, Social Media Marketing. Nikki Delamotte is a feature writer for Cellar Door Cleveland. Her past work can be seen on the blogs of Ingenuity Cleveland, Weapons of Mass Creation design conference, Brite Winter, and the GRAMMYs.