Smithsonian Skateboarding Exhibit Coming to Topeka

The Alice C. Sabatini Gallery will soon look like Topeka’s fourth skate park complete with its own version of a half-pipe. It’s all in honor of Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America, a Smithsonian exhibit, which takes us outside the local skate scene and deep into Native American culture. This is the gallery’s 12th annual art exhibit for children, so teens and kids are asked to bring in parents and grandparents to show off this art form.

4-Wheel Warpony skate crewBe amazed by the art on 20 skate decks, including examples from Native companies and contemporary artists such as Bunky Echo-Hawk, who will hold a live painting event Aug. 9 in the rotunda (jump to exhibit events). View images and video of skateboard history and of Native skaters like the 4-Wheel Warpony skate crew.

Local skater and DJ Fraktul will get the party started with music during the opening reception on June 28.

“We recognize the sport is intergenerational. Ramp It Up will bring back memories and also connect families and friends in unexpected ways,” said Heather Kearns, exhibit coordinator. “This seemingly simple activity has interesting broader applications in areas such as fashion, language, education and the formation of niche groups inside America’s diverse Native cultures.”

Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations and has inspired and influenced American Indian communities since the ‘60s. Ramp It Up examines the role of indigenous peoples in skateboarding culture, its roots in Hawaiian surfing and the visionary achievements of contemporary Native skaters. The exhibition features the work of visual artists and athletes from the following tribes: Yakama, Pawnee, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, White Mountain Apache, Navajo and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians among others.

Ramp It Up Events

June 28 – Aug 24
Ramp It Up! Skateboard Culture in Native America

June 16 – Aug 10
Identities: Bunky Echo-Hawk
In the front gallery, Pawnee artist Bunky Echo-Hawk explores how Native peoples see themselves and how non-Native people perceive them.

June 30 | 2:00-4:00pm | Marvin Auditorium 101BC
Ramp It Up! Film and Discussion
[11-18 years] Watch a documentary of Native skaters performing tricks and an interview with Bunky Echo-Hawk, artist and performer. Plus, discuss safe skating.

July 22 | 2:00-4:00pm | Marvin Auditorium 101AB
Skateboard Logo and Sticker Design
[11-18 years] Young skaters brainstorm a design that best represents both a love of skateboarding and the library. Then, we send it on to be printed on stickers you can put on your board.

 Aug 9 | 11:00am-3:00pm | Rotunda04.15.10_arts_bunky2 199
Live Painting with Bunky Echo-Hawk
Watch Yakama and Pawnee artist and activist, Bunky Echo-Hawk, take ideas from a live crowd and turn them into a collaborative, community painting in real time. Echo-Hawk’s live art performance brings a fresh, interactive, culturally, and socially relevant art experience to his audiences.


Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Photo credits: 4-Wheel Warpony skateboarders Courtesy Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo) and Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), 2009, courtesy David Bernie.

Gallery hours are the same as hours for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library: Mon–Fri., 9am to 9pm, Sat 9am to 6pm and Sun 12pm to 9pm. The library’s Digital Branch is open 24/7 at