On Jan. 22, the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy will fuse a sports and art exhibition with the skate-focused “In Ply.” The community-driven project will include a collection of multi-disciplinary pieces dedicated to the character and style of skateboarding culture as well as a functional ramp for local skaters to use throughout the winter.

“The show itself is not so much about just skateboarding, but about the community of it and how there are so many creators and artists involved in the skate community,” curator Belinda Colón says.

“In Ply” isn’t her first time delving into skate culture. Colón spent her adolescence in skate parks while growing up in Newburgh, New York and says it gave her and her friends a fun and safe place to spend their time.

“People think skateboarders are the troublemakers [but] Newburgh had its own issues and I was a kid who lived on the streets—I had a home but we all just kind of hung out. The skate park gave us a safe place to be where we could all stay out of the trouble on the street where there were drugs and gangs.”

Through her involvement with the organization On Deck Saratoga, Colón has organized a handful of other skate-art shows before in an ongoing effort to raise funds and awareness for skateboarding as a positive outlet and competitive sport. For “In Ply,” On Deck supporters and other online donors raised $2,120 to build the skateable ramp centerpiece to the exhibit, which will be donated to a nearby indoor or covered outdoor skate park after the show closes in early April.

Local carpenters and woodworking artists have volunteered their time to build the community-owned, 4-foot-tall ramp (estimated by Colón at 16 feet wide by over 20 feet long) smack dab in the middle of the Arts Center’s Main Gallery. The massive front windows of the gallery make it visible from the street, not only inviting viewers to watch the construction process but to come in from the cold and skate a while.

With the closest indoor parks located outside of the Capital Region, the ramp will provide a much-needed outlet for local skaters during the winter snow and ice. All skaters must sign a safety and liability waiver before skating the “In Ply” ramp and there will be dedicated blocks of time to do so, accounting for noise and gallery visits. Colón also hopes to dedicate an hour or so for younger children to be able to enjoy the ramp without getting lost in the shuffle of teens and adults. Skate times will be available on The Arts Center of the Capital Region website. 

“It’s not just a small, little, mini ramp that’s in someone’s basement. I want it to be functional art that brings the community together, gives artists a place to skate and create and hang out with people they wouldn’t normally hang out with,” she says.

For display, Colón has acquired 50 wooden skateboard decks and distributed them to local artists, some who know nothing at all about skateboarding, asking them to manipulate boards in a way that compliments their style. Some will be painted or cut, others will be transformed into light and audio-focused installations to be hung on the walls and ceilings. Essentially, she says, they’ll be anywhere and everywhere but the floor, where they would be in the way of those using the ramp.

“This is an open, community-friendly art exhibit. I picked the artists because I like their style, I like their drive,” she says. “People are excited to do the decks because they’ve never worked with a medium like that…and it’s interesting to me because anyone can go buy one but until someone hands it to them and says, ‘This is what it’s for,’  they wouldn’t do it.”

In addition to the woodworkers and deck artists, local photographer Kris Qua will have a collection of portraits and action shots from the Albany Skate Park on display. Colón has also been in touch with a few street artists whose work will canvas the walls and the local punk and experimental music organization Super Dark Collective, who will DJ one of the evenings of the exhibit, incorporating as many forms of art as possible.

“Some of the people who are coming here to skate and who created on the decks, they’ve never been to the Arts Center. So, to also showcase the magnitude of possibility for this building and the things we can do—like a skate ramp in the gallery or the woodworking shop we have downstairs where the carpenters donating their time to make this ramp get to actually enjoy the resources we have—it’s just really nice. I would love for more of these people to get involved with the community of the Arts Center. We’re regional, we’re not just Troy.”

“In Ply” runs from Jan. 22 to April 5 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region’s Main Gallery in Troy. A public reception will be held Friday, Feb. 22 from 6 PM to 8 PM.