Writing On The Wall

skate park mural project aims to let youth express themselves for all to see

Abi Zimmer, photos by Jesse Johnson |

Nose grab. Kick flip. Japan air. Such phrases now scatter the backs of skate ramps and the rental building in the YMCA’s skate park, thanks to a number of teens who pitched in to spice up a gray, drabby skate park with bright colors, jagged edges, words, and outlines of skaters.

“It’s a way for kids to give back to community and take ownership,” says Diane Hofstedt, program manager for Lutheran Social Services Runaway and Youth Services. “We need to ask them more, what do you need from our community?”

Hofstedt’s idea was to have kids create mural art in community places so they could express their concern about community events taking place and have it be seen by other adults. She also wanted to encourage a safe place where kids could connect to adult mentors. “When they’re able to express themselves by creating without barrier, they really open up well,” says Hofstedt.

Then she stumbled onto the YMCA’s skate park located on 229 Moore St. “This just fell into our lap,” says Hofstedt. The YMCA was already looking for a way to jazz up the skate park and welcomed Hofstedt’s idea of involving local teens.

Cyndee Kaiser, an artist who has done several murals around town and in homes, including the windows on 2 S. Barstow St., volunteered her help in the design area.

The three didn’t have an exact design for the mural. They planned to take ideas from the kids and let the art emerge. “I want this to be kid-generated, not me-generated,” says Kaiser. “I’m here as a technical consultant.”

    The teens took four days in mid-August to pull out the paintbrushes between skateboard stunts. Despite some rainy weather, teens from LSS Girls’ Circle, the Boys and Girls Club, and skaters who happened upon the park all got involved, including Brogan Hofstedt and Megan Wineerg, recent Memorial High School grads who “muraled” the largest ramp in the park showing skaters in various stunt positions.

“It’s a way for them to be heard,” says Claire Waldvogel, an Americorps employee with LSS.

The project did have a slow start – until Hofstedt and Waldvogel brought out the food.

“You really have to give back to kids if you want them involved,” says Hofstedt. One night they served pizza donated by Little Caesars, and two other nights they hosted a BBQ with food donated by Festival Foods.  

“We’re hoping this is a starting point for this whole adventure,” says Hofstedt, who would like to see other businesses and organizations give opportunities for teens to do mural art around the community.

Over the week as the work developed, the mural art surprised skaters using the park. “Kids who walked in gave a “wow” reaction, says Hofstedt. Kaiser said their goal was to make the park more visually interesting and the skaters responded well to change.

Every now and then, one skater would pause at the top of a ramp with a suggestion. “Black,” said one biker in response to Waldvogel’s question on a word’s color. “No, no, no,” he revised. “Orange, with a white border.” Others tossed up suggestions for phrases between their own nose grab jumps. They came up with, “Skate free,” “Skate or Pie,” and “Does this board make my butt look fast?” The answer being, of course, yes.