Bringing his adopted town of Detroit into the limelight, Tony Hawk has partnered with artist Ryan McGinness on Wayfinding, an inventive mash-up of skateboarding and art.

The recently opened 4,600-square-foot public skate park and art installation — which includes six skate elements, colorfully quirky wayfinding motifs and a spectator area — is also totally modular. It’s occupying its prime downtown real estate only until a development breaks ground on the same spot early next year.

Tony Hawk in Wayfinding

Tony Hawk drops into Detroit’s new mobile Wayfinding installation. Photo: Courtesy of Bedrock

It’s certainly good fortune that Hawk has a house in Detroit’s Woodbridge area. “If skateboarding’s most influential figurehead lives in the neighborhood, why not seize the opportunity?” thought the project’s mastermind, Library Street Collective, a local gallery known as much for showcasing cutting-edge contemporary artists as for reimagining public spaces.

Hawk acted as Wayfinding’s design consultant, assisting Modern Skate & Surf with the layout, but it was McGinness‘ inspiration that led the way. He’s already known for his large-scale skate park installations for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Basel art show in Miami Beach.

young skateboarder

A young skateboarder checks out the grand opening of Wayfinding. Photo: Courtesy of Bedrock

Hawk is a big fan. “My ‘sport’ is as much a lifestyle and art form as it is a physical task. Skateboarding became my identity as a youngster in terms of music, fashion and a DIY approach to life,” he tells GrindTV.

“I met the most creative people through a shared interest in skating. Ryan McGinness is a perfect example of this attitude; skating was a huge influence on his formative years and he went on to become a hugely successful artist.”

Wayfinding signs

Some of Ryan McGinness’ reinterpreted wayfinding motifs. Photo: Courtesy of Library Street Collective

McGinness grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “At an early age, I learned how the perceived value created by logos, graphics and artwork on skateboards, surfboards and T-shirts becomes intrinsic value,” he tells GrindTV.

“The experience of walking into a skate shop and looking at oil on wood panels and attributing value based on aesthetics is the same experience of viewing works in a museum or gallery.”

Wayfinding overview

Wayfinding in downtown Detroit will have to find a new home at the start of the new year. Photo: Courtesy of Library Street Collective

According to McGinness’ artist statement about Wayfinding, “Hawk repurposes benches, rails, ramps, and curbs as props to serve the expression of skills and tricks. McGinness takes authoritative signs that normally dictate behavior with a universally understood visual language and undermines those forms with surreal and absurd imagery. Both approaches destabilize conventional utilities of forms in urban environments.”

What’s equally surreal is that the whole project is mobile. It’s in a temporary space in downtown Detroit near Campus Martius Park, where a 20-story office tower and 16-story residential building with parking and retail space dubbed Monroe Block is slated to break ground in January 2018.

After that, Wayfinding will need a new home, which Hawk has suggested is indicative of a bigger issue in Detroit.

Tony Hawk signed skateboard

Hawk seems committed to growing the skate scene in his adopted town of Detroit. Photo: Courtesy of Bedrock

“The skate scene in Detroit is strong, but the facilities are scarce,” Hawk says. “Having a group like Community Push [an organization that bridges the gap between skateboarders and their communities] advocating for public skate parks is paramount to getting more skate facilities in and around The D. And I will continue to help in whatever capacity is necessary.”

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