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Deck The Walls: A Collaborative Skateboard Art Show Pops Up In East Vancouver

RANGE Magazine partners with Polaris Music Prize and Oasis Skateboard Factory to celebrate BC artists. 

by Alexia Bréard-Anderson

Oasis Skateboard Factory just might be the coolest high school you’ve ever heard of.  An alternative program of the Toronto District School Board, OSF provides at-risk youth in Grades 11 to 12 with the opportunity to earn school credits by means of independent learning through an unconventional lens of street art, skate culture and entrepreneurship.

Throughout the semester, students learn and apply a multitude of skills as they navigate a series of projects across the city, all the while building their own personal brand. We’re talking real world skills that range from writing an invoice and selling products to crafting a client brief and launching a freelance business by the time they graduate. 

RANGE is especially excited to join forces with OSF, alongside Polaris Music Prize, for a special collaborative pop-up exhibition of six custom skateboards designed and built by the class of 2023. The decks, which will be installed at East Vancouver neighbourhood hot spot It’s Okay, feature original graphics based on Vancouver-based artist nominees: Black Mountain, Dan Mangan, Japandroids, Mac DeMarco, Shad and Snotty Nose Rez Kids (SNRK). 

Amid sticker-plastered walls, scattered backpacks and a larger-than-life printing press, RANGE goes behind the scenes with the students to get their take. “Having Polaris approach us to make boards for artists with established brand personalities was exciting, because up until then we’d only been doing completely self-directed projects,” a student explains to RANGE. “This series gave us the green light to build off of an existing vision and bring our own style into it, which was really fun.” 

In a world where individualism is king and group projects tend to stir up a classroom full of groans, the genuine enthusiasm portrayed by these youths, and their conscious effort to work collaboratively towards a final goal, is immensely refreshing: “I’ve been to a lot of schools,” another student shares. “OSF is the only place where I haven’t seen competition or pettiness go down because someone thinks they have a better idea. Everyone is pretty good at coming together.” 

Flipping through dog-eared sketchbooks and concept drawings, another student chimes in: “It’s exciting to make art that represents us, but also represents these massive artists. And knowing that it’s gonna be displayed in a show for others to see is really cool.”

If there’s one thing we can learn from these kids, it’s how to truly check our egos at the door and recognize that the most creative, impactful and important work is always by and for the collective. 

Launch party on Thursday, March 7 featuring DJ Kookum (SNRK) | RSVP

The exhibition will be on display at It’s Okay (2481 E Hastings St. — Vancouver, BC) from March 7 to April 11.