A popular Atlanta skateboard spot was saved thanks to the activism of local skateboarders and the cooperation of city officials.
Black Blocks, a popular skateboarding spot located at the intersection of Piedmont Ave. and Baker St. in Atlanta, was saved from reconstruction which would render it un-skateable after a petition created on by local skateboarder and Georgia State alumni Andrew Murrell to leave it as it is received thousands of signatures online.
Black Blocks is part of Folk Art Park, a park created in preparation for the Olympic games held in Atlanta in 1996. Skateboarders were attracted to its black and white floors, concrete benches, and metal art pieces to skate on, as well as the very unique ability to skate there completely hassle free.
However, when skaters were made aware of the fences that had been placed around the park to prepare for the reconstruction of Folk Art Park, Murrell and the skateboarding community sprang into action.
Murrell created a petition online, which received 2,500 signatures within its first 24 hours, and was reposted by popular skateboarding sites Transworld Skateboarding, and Thrasher Magazine. Murrell and his team worked with Central Atlanta Progress, the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the Office of Cultural Affairs and managed to make a deal to keep almost 75 percent of Black Blocks skateable and hassle free.
The rest of Black Blocks will be off limits to skateboarders, in order to protect the artwork, and Murrell said he’s fine with that.
“I’d like to save everything there, but at the same time that’s 75 percent of the spot that we kept. I think both sides win,” said Murrell.
Camille Love, executive director at the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, believes Black Blocks was worth saving because she sees the the skateboarding done at Black Blocks as a natural reaction to art.
“Public art is for the public. The skateboarders adopted it, and their use of the art is a reaction to the art,” Love said. I never expected it to be used liked that, but since it is, so be it.”
Georgia State student and local skateboarder Daniel Mines believes Black Blocks is very important to the worldwide skateboarding community.
“It has a history in skateboarding. You’ve seen it before you go, and know what the spot is, not even just in Atlanta,” said Mines.
Murrell believes Black Blocks has become a communal area for Atlanta skateboarders and traveling professional teams, such as Nike Skateboarding, Girl, and Adidas Skateboarding, and the presence of skateboarding helps keep other undesirable things out of Folk Art Park.
“It has a positive effect on the area because having people there scares off people selling drugs, or other sketchy kind of stuff,” said Murrell.
For Noah Chee How, Georgia State student who frequented Black Blocks before it was gated off, the benefits of Black Blocks being open to skateboarders are clear, “Skateboarding is the only positive and beneficial thing happening in that environment,” said Chee How “Skateboarding at Black Blocks has become a safe, creative outlet for the people of Atlanta.”
Looking forward, Murrell is hopeful for the future plans and is satisfied with the results of his endeavors, “It seems like it’s mostly done, but it won’t actually feel that way until we are there again,” said Murrell.