After painting murals on a Drawing Socials tour in Poland last summer, artist Ted Michalowski developed new eyes for walls.
"There’s a big graffiti problem throughout Poland … so they like these mural projects where I’ll go and get a team of artists to paint a mural and it becomes a party through the day while Jason Smeltzer and other musicians play live music," Michalowski said last week at a press conference for the inaugural Drawcore Skate Park Block Party to be held at the Jackson Street Skate Park in West Scranton on July 16-17.
A resident of West Side, Michalowski drove by the park often enough to finally inquire about a tall, white wall frequently targeted by graffiti artists. It just so happens that Michalowski went to school with Scranton Chief of Police Dan Duffy – they were eighth grade computer partners – and wasn’t shy about asking him what he had to do to bring a project similar to those he’d done in Poland to Scranton.
Chief Duffy introduced Michalowski to West Scranton Hyde Park Neighborhood Crime Watch president Karin Foster, and then stepped back.
"The only thing I can draw is my gun," Duffy joked. "I go around preaching ‘Be Part of the Solution.’ But it’s unique to see a police department, a group of artists and a neighborhood organization working together."
"It’s an evolution of the solution," Michalowski added.
As it happens, the young people who frequent the park had been asking about holding a skateboard competition, Foster explained.
"It’s been a perfect storm to get this underway. The time was right that everyone wanted to get involved and make this happen for our community," she said.
The park is experiencing a new wave of activity thanks to the presence of a West Side police patrol headquarters at the park and a reinvigorated neighborhood crime watch contingent that recently spearheaded the planting of a community earth box garden and hosted a family film screening. It’s hoped the mural will become a sort of city landmark.
Michalowski’s Marywood University fieldwork experience students and Arts Alive students will be integral to the project, and photographer Dino DeNaples will capture images of neighborhood skateboarders on which the mural will be based.
"The fact that there are skaters on the wall – it will probably be self-policed," Michalowski suggested.
Skateboarders in at least two different age brackets will be awarded gift certificates for Best Trick, according to Nick Barbose of Zumiez, who is helping to coordinate the competition. Skaters can register in advance at Zumiez’s stores at The Shoppes at Montage or Wyoming Valley Mall, at UnderWood Skatepark in Taylor, or at the Jackson Street park from 2 to 2:45 p.m. the day of the block party. Fees range from $5 to $10. Parents or guardians are asked to accompany children younger than 18. Demonstrations of the proper skills and form expected in each age division will be offered at 2:30 p.m.
The event will also feature live music on Saturday by Tribal Waves and Red Green Blue, and projects featuring Tyler Dempsey, Bobby Davis, and Chris Connors. Sunday’s acts include Smetlzer & Smyth, Adam Catscratch & the Biotech Band, and the Chet Williams Project. A Drawcore All-Star Jam will close out the evening at 7 p.m. Basketball scrimmages will be held both days from 6 to 8 p.m.
Food and merchant vendor spaces are available for a small fee, and free of charge to local non-profit organizations. More information is available at drawcoreblockparty.wordpress.com.
- alicia grega