'This is a neechi board': Winnipeg Indigenous artist paints skateboards for West Broadway kids

Artist Jackie Traverse is fundraising to "Indigenize" skateboard decks and give them to kids living near a new skate park in West Broadway.

Artist Jackie Traverse is raising money to buy 25 skateboards which she will paint and donate to kids

Jackie Traverse has already painted 10 skateboard decks and is hoping to do another 25 to give to kids in West Broadway. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Kids are riding around on one-of-a-kind skateboards at a new skate park in West Broadway.

The decks are bright and Indigenous-themed, and they're being provided free for kids who might not be able to afford one.

"I wanted the kids to be like, 'Wow, look at this … this is a neechi board,'" said Jackie Traverse.

The Anishinaabe artist lives blocks away from the skate park at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre and said the idea came to her when she saw kids from the West Broadway area standing around watching others skate. She said the kids skating were rolling up in cars and weren't from the area.

"I talked to three boys and I asked them how come they're not skating, and they said they had no decks," she said. "They said they couldn't afford them and I decided to raise some money."

Traverse raised enough to buy 10 boards at $100 a pop and then recruited other artists to help make them unique. 

She's calling her fundraiser "Art in Action" and her goal is to purchase and paint 25 more.

"I also wanted to instill pride in First Nations [kids] to let them know that there are [people] in the community that care about them, and for them to be proud of who they are to represent while skating," she said.

Traverse donated the 10 boards to the Broadway Neighourhood Centre and plans on giving the next round of boards to other youth organizations for kids living in the core and North End.
Jackie Traverse 'Indigenized' 10 skateboard decks, with help from other Winnipeg artists. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

The centre's director, Lawrence "Spatch" Mulhall, said the kids were ecstatic when they saw Traverse's art.

"It came as a surprise because the park wasn't [completely] built, and yet she showed up with 10 skateboards and they were all painted and they're fantastic, great artwork," he said.

The skate park is part of a redevelopment of the 2.7 acres of green space around the Broadway Neighourhood Centre on Young Street.

Mulhall said another quarter pipe will be added for skaters, along with a BMX trail, but said the fact the park's not finished hasn't stopped kids from all over the city from checking it out.

"We've had kids coming from Charleswood, Lindenwoods — anybody who skates," he said.  "They've been really supportive of our kids. They help to mentor our kids."

He said Traverse's act of kindness isn't the first one. 

Anishinaabe artist paints skateboards for West Broadway kids 1:22

"Some of the skaters got together with some of the younger people that kept coming out and [were] wanting to skate, and bought them boards and helmets," he said.

Mulhall said the centre is not running a skate program or handing out boards to kids because of insurance issues. 

He said for now, the boards Traverse donated will be given to kids to keep, with their parents' permission. 

He hopes to have the insurance issue resolved by June, in time for the skate park's grand opening.