Artist's exploration of inclusive skateboarding inspires architects

· The Pulse

An Edmonton artist helped an architecture firm explore the idea of "delightful unburdening" by imagining a more inclusive skate park during a recently completed residency.

"I discovered a way to delightfully unburden, and it's through community connection through the world of skateboarding," Lexi Pendzich wrote as the latest artist-in-residence at architecture firm hcma.

From Feb. 23 to May 5, Pendzich created a project called SKATE WORLD, designing and building a skate park for toy skateboards called Tech Decks using floral design elements. The choice was deliberate.

"When I was younger, I never felt like skateboarding was accessible to me," Pendzich told Taproot. "How I got into skateboarding was (with) a little Tech Deck fingerboard."

This was Pendzich's first-ever artist residency. She used the opportunity to draw on a previous project photographing women and LGBTQ+ skaters as well as to experiment with different media.

"Because I'm photo-based, I've never even built 3D models. So I was like, 'Oh, cool. Now I get to be super hands-on, this is awesome.'"

The residency was part of Tilt, hcma's playground-cum-laboratory for creative experimentation on projects outside client-based architecture work.

"It's not directly informing the architecture practice. It's not directly informing the design practice," hcma director of community projects Ali Kenyon told Taproot. "It's something that takes us outside of our comfort zone and gets us to use our brains or our bodies in a way that's different from our day-to-day. We think that's really valuable in terms of helping us to build divergent creative-thinking skills, as well as being more well-rounded humans overall."

Lexi Pendzich seated on the ground holding a skateboard in front of her

Artist Lexi Pendzich brought her passion for inclusive skateboarding culture to a residency at the architectural firm hcma. (Lexi Pendzich/Instagram)

That said, Pendzich's workshops and final presentation to hcma's offices in Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria revealed some interesting connections, Kenyon said.

"My observations (from the presentation) were how amazing it was that she was seeing the same kind of social impact in her world as we see in our world of programming, and thinking about what kind of an impact informal recreation spaces can have on communities, and particularly on youth," she said.

Jenaya Schroh, a marketing coordinator based out of hcma Edmonton, agreed.

"To me (the) biggest takeaway is her thinking about how this, in a small way, can be more of a utopian skate environment. But for us as architects, thinking about how that could be applied in the public realm," Schroh said.

The Tilt residency is designed with reciprocity in mind, ensuring the artist gets as much out of the interaction as the firm, Kenyon said. That's what makes the program valuable, said Michael Rivest, the director of hcma's Edmonton office.

"I went to the Edmonton Arts Council to talk to them about Tilt and the artist-in-residency program… they were really encouraged with the amount of freedom that is given to artists," Rivest said.

Eight colourful skateboards against a white background

Lexi Pendzich's SKATE WORLD project made at hcma included fingerboards with prints created from nature photography. (Lexi Pendzich)

Both parties have upcoming plans for public-facing creative projects. Next year, Pendzich will be exhibiting her skate photography at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, in the city where she first discovered her love of skateboarding. She plans to include supplemental, interactive public events as part of that.

The Edmonton office of hcma will be hosting the Aug. 4 edition of Confetti Fridays, a free, weekly, lunchtime event at Michael Phair Park. The event will feature a performance by musician Nadir Bellahmer and free treats from a local business. The firm previously worked on the 2022 mural installation at the park and consulted on what eventually became Confetti Fridays.