Activism and the Animation of Public Space: Celebration of Skateboard Arts and Culture (CITE) at the Bentway

Authors: Troy Glover*, University of Waterloo
Topics: Urban Geography, Recreational and Sport Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Recreation, programming, pop-up urbanism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the interplay of leisure, activism and the urban environment by exploring CITE (Celebration of Skateboard Arts and Culture), an art installation and pop-up skate park featuring skateable sculptures constructed in commemoration of Toronto skateboarder Justin Bokma. The CITE program, which took place in the summer of 2018, deliberately transformed the Bentway, a new public space and programming platform in Toronto that has changed the underside of the Gardiner Expressway into a gathering place for city inhabitants, into a temporary destination in which skateboarders engaged in activist, educational, and arts and cultural practices to situate the act of skateboarding within the broader context of urban placemaking. Drawing on a variety of empirical materials (e.g., interviews, videos, social media, promotional materials, press releases, observations), this case study seeks to understand how activism animates public space. Findings will show that, through gentle activism, CITE drew attention to tensions tied to the accessibility of public space, the appropriation of public space by marginalized groups and counter-cultures, and the potential for purposeful and transformative placemaking through an innovative partnership. The case reveals a successful alternative to defensive placemaking efforts to displace skateboarders and a collaborative initiative to claim a marginalized group's "right to the city".

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