Stepping off the sidewalk into &gallery on Fourth Avenue, my ears filled with softly-playing punk music. I had stepped in to see the &gallery’s show of the month called “Locals Only Skate Deck art show,” which invited local Tucson artists to express themselves on the unconventional canvas of the skateboard deck. Looking around the gallery space, I felt myself gripped by the unique nature of the &gallery's shows as I was engulfed by the diverse mix of artists that the Tucson art scene has to offer.
Cynthia Naugle, the co-curator and event coordinator of the &gallery, said that the idea for "Locals Only" came from Jonathan Wang, the owner and co-curator.
“We all love skateboarding and art, and he ended up buying a bunch of blank decks,” Naugle said.
The gallery then selected 19 local artists and gave them the blank skate decks, giving the artists total freedom to create whatever they wished on the decks.
Since the pandemic began, Naugle said the gallery has been exclusively partnering with local artists. "Locals Only" exemplified the diverse artistic voices present in the local art community and gave voice to many local artists who found themselves outside of the mainstream.
One of the show's featured artists Tyler Majo said that “it was kind of like a school project. We weren't given a specific prompt but we were given a piece to work on.”
For the &gallery, a show centered around skateboarding fit right into the gallery's mission according to Naugle.
“One of the big things with &gallery that we’ve always promoted is we want to support locals and we want to support the weird art,'' Naugle said.
The gallery partnered with B.A.B.S., a local skater girls group, and displayed videos of the group skating on one of the gallery walls.
“Skateboarding culture has always had this cross between music and art, and it hits so many different art backgrounds. Even skateboarding, there’s one artist that calls it art in motion,” Naugle said.
For Majo, a non-skater, the show opened up a unique opportunity to connect with the skating community.
“It’s cool to see a whole different group that kind of functions like the art group in a different way. [It's] just another community that never really crosses paths until something like this happens,” Majo said.
Majo’s piece in the show is entitled “S8tyr Girl”, a clever wordplay on the phrase “skater girl,” features a mythical female satyr riding atop a skateboard.
“Skating is not my scene, and I know very little about it so I just inserted my passion, which is fantasy, fun dungeons and dragons stuff with the skate stuff,” Majo said.
The show still provided Majo with a sense of belonging in the Tucson community despite not being a skater.
“I’m not from Tucson, so it feels a little weird knowing so many [of the artists] are and have lived here their whole lives, but I don't know. It makes me feel like I am a local, to put an actual label on me being here for a little bit. It's kind of nice actually,” Majo said.
Westyles, another artist in the show, said that the &gallery gave him his first opportunity to show his work in a gallery setting.
“I am super pumped about that, and I definitely feel like I have to give back to them and show them love as well,” Westyles said.
The &gallery specializes in giving space to artists like Westyles that may not get the opportunity to show their work in a traditional gallery.
“It gives a good voice to the communities in the art scene that really wouldn't have one in a traditional sense here in Tucson,” said Jordan Jacobs, the gallery’s co-curator and head of sales.
The Locals Only Skate Deck show is open to the public from March 17 to April 7, tickets are available online.
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