Decked Out

Amanya Maloba

The kids wore loose beanies, boots, and the occasional snapback–the expected skateboarder uniform. But gathered together Saturday night at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, the skaters’ boards were up on the walls rather than under their feet. Throughout the gallery, skateboard decks hung next to brightly colored photographs and paintings as part of “Can’t Grow Up,” a one-night-only exhibit curated by 18-year-old SAIC freshman Luke Pelletier.

Pelletier first became interested in art freshman year of high school when he and some friends “spray painted a bunch of dicks on the high school and got expelled.” At the alternative school he attended for the rest of his high school career, Pelletier honed his artistic skills drawing portraits of drug addicts, pregnant teenagers, and pimply adolescents.

One featured artist, Bryan Peterson, darted quickly in and out of the crowd, recording the faces of attendees with his handheld camera. Up on the wall, Peterson’s blazingly bright skateboards were displayed. Reflective of his energetic and seemingly rebellious nature, the boards read “Fuck The Police” and “Toe up from da flo-up”.

Only Jourdon Gullett’s three portraits interrupted the bright colors on the walls. Two of the three pieces were crafted of gold and black ink on Masonite: one showing a girl holding a goat, and the other a young man sitting next to a fire hydrant, pigeons perching on his body. That particular piece is one-quarter of a series, which Gullett describes as being “super Chicago.” Gullett draws inspiration from ’90s skateboard culture and his everyday life as a teacher for After School Matters, a non-profit organization that allows Chicago youth to participate in out-of-school arts, science, athletic and tech programs.

Saturday night, Pelletier was dressed in a plaid shirt and stood next to his mother as he talked to passersby. The North Carolina native spoke softly but confidently, explaining his motivation for putting on the art show: “I’ve always been into skateboarding and art, so it just felt really natural to do the exhibit.”  With “Can’t Grow Up” Pelletier’s ambition was simple: “I just want people to have fun,” he said. “It’s like skateboarding, you know? Just really fun.”