THIS YEAR, LIBRARY STREET COLLECTIVE CELEBRATES THEIR 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF BEING THE MOST AUSPICIOUS ART GALLERY IN THE MIDWEST (SCIENTIFIC FACT). TO COINCIDE WITH THEIR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, THE GALLERY HOSTED A ONE-NIGHT-ONLY GROUP EXHIBITION ENTITLED IT TAKES A VILLAGE, BRINGING TOGETHER 70+ PARTICIPATING ARTISTS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE COLLECTIVE’S NEW SKATEPARK. AUDETORIUM WAS INVITED TO COVER THE EVENT AND TELL THE STORY OF THEIR EXPERIENCE DURING THE CELEBRATION. THIS IS PART ONE OF THAT STORY.
We arrived at the Library Street Collective’s gallery with a full set of camera equipment in tow. The white walls of the brightly lit space off Library Street in downtown Detroit had been propagated with artwork from 70+ world-renowned artists. Artists I have been admiring for years and now, I was moments away from being in a room with a majority of them all at once.
This creative conglomerate of artists assembled their work for It Takes A Village, a benefit exhibition to raise funds for a new skatepark that Library Street Collective is currently building in Detroit’s East Village neighborhood. The night was even more special because it was a celebration of Anthony and JJ Curis’ 10th anniversary of founding Library Street Collective. All of this culminating into what promised to make tonight a truly once-in-a-decade kind of celebration. But before we’d have a chance to begin making merry, our team had to get all of our lights and cameras set up so that we could, in less than an hour, interview two of the night’s special guests. One of whom I had only begun to learn about a few months ago, and one that has played a key role in my upbringing since high school.
The largest piece in the gallery, the one that caught your eye immediately as you walked into the space, was a massive painting full of signatures across a black canvas. The signatures, some still intact and some scribbled and scrubbed away, had been penned by the legendary skateboarder, Tony Hawk. The god of skateboarding had been commissioned to scribble his signature over and over again across a canvas by the artist Tyrrell Winston, only to have Winston destroy the majority of those signatures for part of a series of paintings he has been working on for some time entitled Punishment Paintings. Now, the two of them would be meeting again to help support the exhibition, and had agreed to sit down and speak with me about the piece, Detroit, and their ties to Library Street Collective.
When it comes to celebrities, I am not easily rattled. I don’t get intimidated seeing the images from my television taking form. I can also make conversation with just about anyone about just about anything. Tonight was going to be different though. Tonight I was going to be meeting the legendary Tony Hawk.
You have to understand… Tony Hawk, a childhood hero of basically everyone I grew up with, was the first sports hero I ever really had. His name was on my first skateboard. His video game never left my Playstation for nearly 3 years. Interviewing him was only made sweeter by the fact that he would be joined by a world renowned bad-ass like Tyrrell Winston.
TYRRELL HAS HAD SOLO GALLERY SHOWS BOTH IN BRUSSELS AND THE CRANBROOK ART MUSEUM. HIS ASSEMBLAGES OF OLD BASKETBALLS ADORN THE WALLS OF THE CAVALIERS’ ROCKET MORTGAGE FIELDHOUSE. HE HAS PHOTOGRAPHS WITH TAKASHI MURAKAMI WHEN THE ARTIST CAME TO SEE HIS EXHIBITION. HIS ACCOLADES ARE MATCHED ONLY BY THE AMOUNT OF TATTOOS HE HAS ALL OVER HIS BODY. HE’S A CERTIFIED, GRADE-A LEGEND IN THE MAKING.
Tyrrell I knew would be an easy person to talk to and get along with. His reputation for being a homie proceeds him. When it came to Tony though, I had no idea what I would even say.
Do I tell him that the skateboard film “The End” was the sole inspiration for me wanting to start shooting videos which led me down the path that would begin my career? Do I tell him that when he did the 900 for the first time I literally threw my soda bottle through my bedroom window in excitement? My mind was reeling with ideas of how the interview was going to go. As I played out scenarios where Tony and I (already first-name basis) would leave as new best friends to go grab some Coney Dogs after the interview, Tony “The Birdman” Fucking Hawk walked into the door.
Tony hadn’t just flown into Detroit to see his painting adorning the walls of 1274 Library Street one last time before it was purchased. Hawk, who is leading the functional design of the skatepark here in Detroit that Library Street Collective is currently constructing in partnership with the non profit Jefferson East Inc., has a long history of building skateparks all over the world. Detroit’s new skatepark is part of a larger effort to revitalize the east Jefferson corridor of a neighborhood that was once a shining beacon of the state.
THE SKATEPARK IS THE SECOND COLLABORATION HAWK HAS DONE WITH LIBRARY STREET COLLECTIVE. IN 2017, ALONG WITH THE ARTIST RYAN MCGINNESS, THE PAIR HAD TEAMED UP TO WORK ON A PROJECT ENTITLED WAYFINDING, WHICH WAS AN ART INSTALLATION/SKATEPARK IN DOWNTOWN DETROIT. THE NEW SKATEPARK, WHICH IS SET TO BE FINISHED IN THE SPRING OF 2023 WILL BE A PERMANENT FIXTURE WITHIN THE COMMUNITY, CREATING A SAFE HOME FOR SKATEBOARDERS AND ARTISTS FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD TO DO WHAT THEY LOVE.
Tony shook the rest of my team’s hands when he walked into the gallery while I fiddled nervously with the lighting, trying to steady myself before I went to shake the hand of a living legend. Tony walked around the gallery with his hands in his pockets looking over the art. Without being totally aware of my decision to do so I felt myself moving towards him to introduce myself at what could only be described as “geek-speed 9000”. Just as my hand was beginning to rise from my side and my mouth was getting ready to form a proper introduction, Tyrrell came through the door and Tony turned to greet him. My natural reaction was to pretend that I had all along been reaching my arm up to check a watch that I wasn’t wearing.
Tyrrell and Tony took a seat in preparation for the interview. They spoke about their collaboration together and the idea behind the piece. Tony spoke about what building a skatepark can do for a community and what having a skatepark close to him while growing up did for him personally. Tyrrell spoke about his recent relocation to Detroit and his affinity for Anthony and JJ and Library Street Collective as a whole. It was a solid, straight-forward interview that I hardly remember even giving because I was still thinking about my failed handshake from earlier.
As we packed everything up in preparation for the gallery to open its doors to the public, I felt a little disheartened by the missed opportunity to become Tony Hawk’s new best friend. There would be no hot dogs. There would be no skateboarding together in suits on flaming skateboards while listening to Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure” like Heath Kirchart and Jeremy Klein in “The End”. It was going to forever be the biggest regret of my entire career. That is until Tony Hawk walked up to me, handed me his microphone and said, “Thanks. That was really great. I didn’t even get your name.”
“My name’s Kalvin. Thanks Tony.”
Just like that, the 15 year old inside of me was completely vindicated. The countless hours I spent in my room playing every level over and over again on Tony Hawk Pro-Skater, every class I ditched to go skateboard with my friends to try and become as good as Tony Hawk, every bill I never paid because I had wasted all my money at MiloSport buying Birdhouse apparel, none of it had been in vain because it all led me to this integral moment in my life where I would be introducing myself to the GOAT, Tony Hawk. My mind again started to wander to the fact that soon I would be at barbeques with Rodney Mullen and standing at the top of a half-pipe telling jokes to Bob Burnquist. That would all have to wait though because the doors were about to open and the rest of this fantastic night was about to begin…