Custom Skateboards Auctioned to Raise Awareness of Autism

Posted By Mike Padgett

Nov. 7, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – If the inspirational artwork now hanging in the After Hours Gallery in central Phoenix were displayed outside, it probably would stop traffic.

As it is, the nearly 200 wooden skateboard decks covering walls two stories high in the gallery are stopping visitors in their tracks, especially younger visitors who may identify with skateboards. There is so much to absorb, so many images, and each with a story to tell, a slow motion button would be helpful.

The custom artworks were created for an auction to increase public awareness of autism, a prevalent development disorder facing children. The All Decks on Hand art auction is a collaboration between the Phoenix gallery and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, or SARRC.

The creative skateboard decks, each about 8 inches by 30 inches, are as provocative and different as Arizona sunsets. They are hung on the walls vertically or horizontally, depending on the artwork.

Most of the decks (minus the wheels) are painted. Others are carved or covered with mosaics, photographs or other media. One is covered with handprints.

One deck was cut in half and assembled into a display that includes gears and a drive chain. Another, because it is signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is registered with Major League Baseball.

Skateboard champion Andy Macdonald donated the board he used in the 2009 X-Games Big Air Competition. He autographed the board for the auction.

The artists range from professional to amateur to preschoolers. Most of the artists are in Arizona or other states. Some are in Canada and the United Kingdom. A few of the colorful skateboard decks are the work of teens and young adults affected by autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs.

Gallery owners Russ Haan and Mike Oleskow are overseeing the display in their gallery at 116 W. McDowell Road. They said the idea originated with Trevor R. Hill, a designer with After Hours Creative. Hill said he was inspired by his experiences with someone who has autism.

Haan said the proposal to auction custom skateboards to boost awareness of autism was embraced quickly because of the prevalence of autism. Research shows that one child in 150 has some form of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Bids for the artistic skateboard decks start at $100, with challenge bids set at $25 increments. Online bidding starts today, Nov. 7, at

Bidding, either at the gallery or online, closes Dec. 3. Additional bids may be placed Dec. 4 at the gallery during the last First Friday event of 2009. For more information, contact gallery employees at or call 602-710-2398.

The artists treated the decks like canvases, turning them into interpretations of what they see out their windows, or maybe what they visualize through the private windows of their minds. And like many artistic creations, each work is subject to individual interpretation.

The imaginative artwork shows roses and other flowers, individuals and religious scenes. One skateboard deck is coated with candy wrappers. Another makes me feel like Gulliver traveling – it shows Lilliputian game boards for chess and backgammon.

Two mermaids dressed like Wonder Woman are on another deck. Close by is a deck with a buffalo head. In another row is a skateboard painted end to end like a jigsaw puzzle.

And yet another deck has “In Bot We Trust” under the painted image of a robot standing guard in the clouds.

Standing in the gallery, admiring the skateboard creations in the morning light pouring through the giant windows, I tried to imagine what I might paint on a blank wood canvas the size of a giant hot dog. I’m sure my creation would be influenced by my personal dreams and achievements and screw-ups on life’s interstate.

On the painted decks hanging in the gallery, I saw much talent and original creativity. I saw colors, designs and images in harmony. I could only imagine how the art was influenced by each individual’s complex experiences.

But that’s just my opinion.

It was American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.”

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Nov 7th, 2009

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