Philly Radness invites skateboards to the art gallery

A skater tries out a dizzying digital landscape at the original Phenomenal Radness. (Photo courtesy of the Pearlstein Gallery.)

Philly Radness: An Interactive Pop-Up Skatepark has brought skateboarders together from across the city of Philadelphia since it opened on April 5. It’s at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery in Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, featuring a multimedia exhibit that is also skate-able.

The spark for the original Philly Radness idea came last year, when artistic collaborators Eric Cade Schoenborn and Ed Selego were invited to Drexel by the Rudman Institute to give a lecture during Design Philadelphia on applied design. Rudman Institute director Karen Curry told the gallery about Schoenborn and Selego’s previous collaboration, Phenomenal Radness, a skate-able, projection-mapped, generative art sculpture that debuted at Basel Miami in 2013. Leah Appleton, the coordinator at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, said that the group collectively thought the Drexel gallery would be a great location for a new iteration of this project.

Farewell to LOVE

Once the idea to continue this project in Philadelphia became a reality, the team moved forward in engaging the local Philadelphia skateboard community with the help of Chris Mulhern. Mulhern is a videographer who focuses on skateboarding culture in Philadelphia, and he curated The Last Days of LOVE, the photo and video components of Philly Radness.

“Now that beloved skate spot Love Park is no more, it's been nice to have a place that people can come and check out the videos and images of the park, and skate in an entirely new and utterly different spot,” said Appleton.

Earlier this year, Love Park, a kind of skateboarders’ mecca (even though the City banned skateboarding there in the 1990s) was closed for renovation, after the Mayor opened it to skaters for one last weekend. Philly Radness has been able to temporarily fill that void.

A new home in the gallery

When the exhibit began on April 5, there were approximately 200 people in attendance on opening night, with at least 20 people skateboarding.

Nocturnal, a great locally owned Philadelphia skate shop on South Street, brought a bunch of their team skaters and everyone had a lot of fun. Young children and families watched, while more experienced skaters joined in,” said Appleton of the event.

Appleton said you don’t have to be a skateboarder to appreciate the complexity and fun interactivity of the installation or the multimedia portion of the show. The space serves as a great educational tool for digital arts students, as well as a way for skateboarders and non-skateboarders alike to come together and learn about the skateboarding community of Philadelphia.

“We've been really happy with the response from people who come to Philly Radness so far. Since there are so many different moving parts to the exhibition, there's something for everyone. People of all ages and from all walks of life can find something in this exhibition,” Appleton said.

While the exhibit is still open, skateboarders are welcome to come in during regular hours, which are Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm. The gallery has also hosted a range of special events, and soon they will also host two additional live music events with Mad Dragon Media Group and other artists. Although there cannot be skateboarding during these shows, the gallery encourages individuals to come before the shows to skateboard, and then stay to enjoy the music.

“It seems like the people [who] choose to come to Philly Radness make themselves at home, which is a pretty cool thing as an art gallery,” Appleton said.

Philly Radness is free and open to the public, and will be on display through May 22 at Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert Street, Philadelphia.