Kicks for a cause 

Pro snowboarder, local artists team up on innovative fundraiser to support skateboarders

Whistler’s arts community is lending a helping hand to the local skateboarding scene by using their artistic abilities on a fashionable, and functional, new fundraising project.

More than 14 talented artists from the Sea to Sky corridor took markers, paint pens and other materials to their canvas: a blank pair of IPath skate shoes.

Taka (TifDyl) Sudo, Arne Guttman, The Incredible Amoeba, Becky McKeigan, Dave (Pepe) Petko, Lauren Ritz, Phresha, Maria Sandner, Josee St. Amour, Chili Thom, Robin Duthcher, Justin Ormiston, Logan, and Dan Poisson all participated in the event, putting their own unique flair on each pair of kicks.

The shoes were then put up for auction during last weekend’s group art exhibition, Let’s Talk About Feelings…, held by Blind Mute Productions at Mike’s Garage in Function Junction. Bidding started at $20, but soon escalated to up to $140 per pair, with all proceeds going to benefit the Whistler Skateboard Association.

Crispin Lipscomb, a professional snowboarder, spearheaded the new fundraising campaign and acted as the middle-man for the event, recruiting the sponsors and connecting them with local artists.

Also an avid skateboarder, Lipscomb thinks it’s important to support the local skateboarding community, and to help raise their profile throughout town.

“I think that’s a group and association that’s going to need as much help and as much energy and focus as we get light on it, especially going into the next couple of years, where its going to be hard to hold onto any kind of real estate for that sort of thing,” he explained.

Lenny Rubenovitch is one of the founding members of the Whistler Skateboard Association, which represents local skateboarders and tried to encourage the progression of the sport within the community. He said they are very happy to have the support of the community.

“It was just awesome to have Crispin and the Blind Mute Productions guys throw such a cool event and involve us, just bringing attention to our organization, never mind financial donation,” said Rubenovitch.

He agreed that finding space for a facility is a real problem for Whistler skateboarders.

The existing park, in the Creekside underground parking lot, is closing in November because Whistler-Blackcomb wants to use the space. Skateboard association organizers are currently looking for a new space. They’ve spoken with the municipality and have considered a number of alternative sites, like the Airdome on Blackcomb, or even renting a space in Function Junction.

“We want to find a facility, but it’s really difficult because land in Whistler is like gold,” Rubenovitch explained.

It looks like some other members of the community are more than willing to pitch in to try and help solve the problem.

Lipscomb has actually been mulling this fundraising concept over for almost three years.

“Shoes have been the place for graphic design obviously from the very beginning, and I’m not the first person to come up with the idea of doing new art on shoes,” Lipscomb said. He pointed out that big-name labels like Nike and IPath have been hiring artists to design shoes for years.

But the fundraiser finally came together the other week, when Lipscomb was down at Mike’s Garage and Podium Auto Detailing and mentioned the idea to Randy Smith, who is also one of the guys behind Blind Mute Productions. They realized the upcoming group exhibition would be the perfect place to auction off the finished shoes, and the ball was set in motion.

“When this happened, I thought, ‘yes, this is it! It’s on — let’s do it,’” said Lipscomb.

The event raised a total of $750 for the association, with Taka Sudo’s pair fetching the highest bid of $140.

“It went amazingly well,” Lipscomb said. “Everyone who was new to that kind of scene was excited and everyone who has had experience with that kind of three-dimensional canvas was really excited.”

A couple pairs of shoes really stood out and fetched the highest bids — designs by Taka Sudo, Chili Thom, Robin Duthcher and Pepe were all particularly popular items.

“Some of these shoes I think are worth hundreds,” he said. “Some of them you couldn’t wear because they were just so intricate or complicated.”

Lipscomb also hopes to expand the event, holding another auction again as early as this summer during Krankworx, and perhaps bringing a new sponsor, Pow Gloves, in on the action and getting artists to design gloves in addition to the shoes. He’s also looking to integrate a competitive aspect for the artists who participate in the fundraiser.

“For next year, we want to have bigger prize pools, we’re going to have a way more structured panel of judges, and we’ll put a little bit of a guiding criteria, maybe a theme or something, and then give them more time to work on it,” Lipscomb said.

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