Toronto’s relationship with skateboarders and skateboarding culture is changing for the better. Once a much maligned nuisance on city property, there are now 16 official skateparks and skate spots in Toronto. Beginning this weekend, The Bentway’s summer-long CITE celebration will put another hot spot on the map for local skateboarders and community members.
Before it became a public space and winter skating trail, The Bentway was largely unused and abandoned land underneath the Gardiner Expressway. A few industrious skateboarders had built their own improvised skatepark including ledges and ramps, but it was soon demolished to transform the space between Strachan Avenue and Bathurst Street into an area that could be enjoyed by all of the local communities. After a highly successful season of ice skating over the winter, June 30th marks the beginning of The Bentway’s summer event series, called CITE – A Celebration of Skateboard Arts and Culture.
“Our mandate is to explore the intersection of arts and urbanism,” says Ilana Altman, Director of Programming at The Bentway. “This project is emblematic of the goals we had set for ourselves.”
The concept for the project began when Build for Bokma‘s Wes Loates approached Altman about building a skate installation for The Bentway, an idea that was immediately well received. “We wanted to respect the fact that we had displaced this community of skateboarders,” Altman says.
One structure quickly grew into three distinctive skateable art installations called Semblance, and CITE was born. Over the past month, TAS has turned over our current development site at 2 Tecumseth to the Build for Bokma team as they create their sculptures. The final designs are still top secret, but we’ve included a few sneak peeks of what they’re working on.
While the acceptance of skateboarding culture has grown, Loates knows there is still a long way to go to make parks like these accessible for everyone. This installation and event series is a big step in the right direction. “The scale of this will be really impactful,” he says. “We want to do it for the community, through the community, and create pieces that will add to the neighbourhood in an aesthetically pleasing way.”
Build for Bokma is a Toronto non-profit focused on creating skateable public structures across the city. Established in memory of the late Justin Bokma, a Toronto-born professional skateboarder, BFB’s ultimate goal is to create a large, entirely community-built skatepark that can further integrate skateboarding into the city’s long term development.
From June 30 to August 12 the CITE skate trail and sculptures will be open daily, in addition to an art installation by skateboarder Pascal Paquette. On select weekends The Bentway will also host a variety of workshops, live music events, and a marketplace.
For those who aren’t skateboarders themselves but still want to get involved, check out The Bentway’s Sunday Socials, featuring a beer garden and ping pong tables, in partnership with Spin. Later in the summer The Bentway will also be announcing a skate-themed speaker series, featuring a variety of professionals whose previous or current involvement with the skateboarding community helped them find the path they’re on today. The full schedule of events can be found here.