Mason Artist Uses Skills for Public Art Project
By Erin Cushing
Mason Sculpture Studio manager and graduate student Ben Ashworth’s passion for skateboarding fueled his winning submission for the 5×5 Project, a new public art project created by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
With his project Finding a Line, Ashworth transformed a run-down, abandoned area of Garfield Park in Capitol Hill under I-395 into a useable, shareable space—specifically, a skate park. As Ashworth writes on his blog, “Finding a Line is a project that takes the improvisational act at the core of skateboarding—finding a line through physical space—and applies it to the process of transforming a community space.”
The 5×5 Project has five curators who each in turn work with five artists or artist teams to create and display 25 pieces throughout the city in conjunction with the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. The project aims to foster local talent; create relationships among community members, artists, and curators; enliven city neighborhoods; and promote the creative side of the city.
Ashworth’s project is a collaborative one, and artists, activists, skaters, and community members were actively involved in cleaning and building the space. Finding a Line launched on March 20. Ashworth and his team, including Mason associate professor of art Tom Ashcraft, have continued to work on the site every Friday and Saturday through the month of April.
Besides acting as a large outdoor canvas for paintings, murals, and other artworks, the space has become a meeting place and skate park for local youth, who often skate or help out as Ashworth and his crew work and play in the space. Ashworth also brought a Mason undergraduate sculpture class to the site to experience the project.
Ashworth, who is also involved with a group of independent artists and art professionals called the Workingman Collective, wants Finding a Line to be a learning environment, as well as an art piece and functional skate park. By involving area youth in the project, he teaches them about stewardship of their environment, as well as technical skills, such as carpentry and video editing, an important component of documenting the project’s process. Continuing in this vein of community interaction with the arts, the Finding a Line site hosted a Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) spring break camp for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
This is not Ashworth’s first skate park. Previously, he teamed up with Washington, D.C.-based Green Skate Laboratory to organize and build a skatepark for Langdon Recreation Center constructed from more than 3,000 reclaimed tires by an all-volunteer labor team (including neighborhood kids). He is also one of the founding members of the DC Fight Club, an underground skatepark/gallery/creative space in an abandoned warehouse, which became a center for local and national cultural events.
To see more photos of the Finding a Line project and learn more about Ashworth, visit his blog.
This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.
To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.