Anyone familiar with the Woodstock scene in Cape Town will know that skateboarding is a common pastime for many young locals. Inspired by this culture, Alison Harris (25) started Sk8 for Gr8, a design-focused social enterprise.
Since 2013, Sk8 for Gr8 has been pairing local designers with predominantly Woodstock youth in need of opportunity and interested in gaining art exposure. The objective is for the designer to serve as a creative mentor to the child during a series of workshops and then design a skateboard deck inspired by the child’s personality and life. Finally, the decks are displayed to the public at an annual auction.
Harris explains Sk8 for Gr8’s goal: “We believe all kids need to be exposed to creative thought, that spark, that moment. It is from there that magic can happen. Even if it is as small as a moment of appreciation. With design thinking being our focus, we’re wanting to prove an innovative business model for South Africa. We want to change the mindsets of what giving back looks like by creating a self-sustaining business model. Ours is built of both a registered trust and a Pty. Ltd, allowing our non-profit (trust) to be sustained by our for-profit (pty. ltd).”
This year, five children took part in four of Sk8 for Gr8’s ‘Back to Front’ workshops conducted by Harris with guest speakers Sandra Birklbauer, founder of Bloodsister, and Marco Morgan, city-planner and a founding member of the National Skate Collective.
The workshops covered topics such as colour mediums, light, photography and the history of skateboarding. The children also each received a film camera to document beauty in their surroundings.
“It was amazing to see the children understanding that there are multiple answers to questions, different solutions to issues and that perhaps they could use creativity to solve issues and problems that they are actually experiencing,” said Brad Harris, a children’s writer and illustrator who served as one of the 2016 creative mentors.
The most recent auction, held on 19 May, demonstrated that Sk8 for Gr8 draws people from all walks of life. The Man Cave in Woodstock bustled with creatives, Woodstock locals and general supporters of the initiative who crowded around five intricately designed decks. Auctioneer, Joey Burke, conducted a live bid for each deck and a total of R20,000 was raised.
“The 20k raised from our last event is going towards the building of the workshop structure for future workshops and covering costs of materials for past and future workshops. We are, however, in need of more funding,” says Harris.
A word with the creative mentors
A few of the creative mentors approached for an interview shared how they noticed the workshops encourage and bring out each child’s confidence in his/her creativity.
Andrej von Walter, a designer involved in the Sk8 for Gr8 workshops in 2015, shared, “I was paired with a kid nicknamed Mili. He inspired me maybe even more than what I did him. This dude was fearless when it came to tackling a situation, whereby us designers often experience self-doubt and procrastination till the very last minute. The one thing I noticed was the influence that media and television has on young kids. If a child is not given a variety of scenery, I believe, it might be harmful to their creative and imaginative growth.”
Kirsty Reilly, a visual art teacher at Reddam House, Green Point, said, “The advice I'd give to other designers would be to just have fun with the kids. I don't think you realise the impact you have by just being present with them and taking an interest in their lives.”
“There is no better inspiration than the imagination of a child. I would do it all over again. It was truly a unique experience,” said Danica Ricciardi, graphic designer at Jane Says.
How you can get involved
To place orders, check out Sk8 for Gr8’s newly launched website.
If you are a designer interested in volunteering as a creative mentor in January 2017, you may email .
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