Skateboards, Art, and Autism: A Less Unlikely Combo Than You Might Think -- On Display Saturday Night
Saint (at left) and Jason Agan with some of their featured work.
6:00am | Tim Scanlan II, owner of Long Beach Skate Co., remembers being a teenager inspired by the punk music and aggressively innovative skateboarding of Duane Peters.
He also remembers Michael.
"I grew up with a buddy across the street who had autism, and I had to deal with people bullying him," Scanlan recalls. "Personally I've been impacted by knowing someone with autism my whole life. So when I met Jane Tipton […] who supports skateboarding and knows it's super alive in youth culture, we thought, 'Why not unite these worlds to raise some awareness?'"
The fruits of that partnership will be on display Saturday night, and Long Beach Skate Co. will host an art show, with proceeds to benefit Tipton's nonprofit organization, Autism in Long Beach.
Tipton has personal experience with autism: her son Tafari, 5, was diagnosed as autistic two-and-a-half years ago. Unable to find any autism organizations with a local focus, Tipton founded Autism in Long Beach to fill the gap. For families by a family, the org's slogan goes. Grassroots, no chaser.
"I didn't really have any place to go or anyone to talk to locally," she says. "All of the events I would go to were to raise money for national organizations."
Beginning modestly with "little events, little picnics, and a Facebook page with about a hundred members," Autism in Long Beach is about to receive its 501(c)(3) status and currently boasts over 2,500 members.
"Boast" may not be the best choice of words, but one of the organization's taglines speaks to a perceived, fearful reality: Autism…Coming soon to a family near you.
"Autism seems to be growing exponentially," says Saint, one of the organizers and featured artists in Saturday's show. "It could be genetic or social, but we do know that it's a growing epidemic."
Tipton recounts how shortly after founding Autism in Long Beach she realized how effectively sports spoke to autistic children. So she reached out to various sports organizations. "The people that were willing to help were skateboard community," she says.
At the vanguard of this group was Long Beach Skate Co., which has taken part in previous Autism in Long Beach events by way of both donations of skateboards and helping autistic kids learn to skate -- an activity Tipton says the kids love. "They have consistently, consistently donated to our group in one way or another," Tipton says of Long Beach Skate.
That spirit will be evident Saturday night, with numerous artists putting up work for sale that will benefit Autism Long Beach -- including Scanlan's childhood hero, current Long Beach resident Duane Peters.
"When you think Duane Peters you think: raw, punk rock, aggressive, in your face," Scanlan says. "Luckily for us, at this stage in his life he's a lot more clean and healthy and positive. [But] his art is still very punk, very 1977 early punk, with modern techniques. […] When I talked to him about art, he raised his hand and said, 'I want a show!' […] He loves to support a good cause, and when I told him about this Autism in Long Beach connection, that even more sealed the deal for why he wants to be a part of this. […] All the artists [taking part in the show] are amazing dudes to care enough to do the show and to raise money for this nonprofit."
But Scanlan says there's nothing surprising in finding such an ethos at a skate shop, which traditionally has been an institution about much more than pushing product.
"A skate shop is more than just a place to buy something -- at least as I understand it as a skater over the last 20 years," he says. "You learned about more than just skateboarding through the skate shop. And that's what we wanted to bring here. […] I have kids of all ages coming in here of all the time, and it's not just a skate shop; it's, 'Let's talk about what's going on in your world -- problems, issues, whatever.' It's kind of like a Big Brother program."
And art, he says, is a natural component of the skating community: "Skateboarders and artists were pretty much born from the same tree. […] Skateboarding wouldn't be what it is stylistically without awesome artists that do it. In our shop, we get artists in here almost as much as we get skateboarders."
That's certainly true for Jason Agan, a skater for the last 23 years and an artist for longer than that. "Tim's right: the art and the skateboarding go hand in hand," he says. "[For me,] art and skateboarding kind of collided and influenced each other."
Saint, however, has never skated. Instead, he began doing art on decks after hooking up with Scanlan and getting a hold of the raw material that is broken skate decks (for which Long Beach Skate, in the spirit of recycling, accepts as trade-ins for credit).
"This is very much a hotspot for Long Beach culture," says Scanlan, "and so we want kids and adults and artheads and even people who don't like art here to share this common ground."
Long Beach Skate Co. (3138 E. 7th St. (at Obispo Ave.) hosts an art show Saturday, April 14, from 7pm to 11pm, with sales proceeds to benefit Autism in Long Beach. Featured artists include Duane Peters, Jason Agan, Saint, Bishop, Tani Person, Jay, Francis, Ian Bork, and Tyler Thys; and DJ Retro Slam will spin an all-vinyl set of both international and local sounds. For more information, call 562.434.5527 or visit www.lbskate.com.