Painting Murals in Skateparks

A few years ago we had A LOT of offensive, gang-looking tagging and graffiti showing up at Carolina Skatepark with the #1 target being the big bowl (likely due to it’s depth and the ability to not be seen easily from street level.) We’d heard that the “unwritten code” with graffiti artists is they will not tag each others artwork – so we thought we’d give a “graffiti art” inspired mural a shot.

We got a hold of a local spray paint art legend named “Grave” who was into doin’ positive, permission mural pieces. He and his crew came up with a Seascape concept that we presented to the PARD folks and they gave it the green light. We purchased $1,000 worth of paint from money raised from a series of four skateboard contests.

We researched what kind of paint to use and how to do it. We would use 100% acrylic primer paint and top coat paint – mainly because it allows the concrete to “breath.” It was decided (with PARD) to coordinate the start of the mural project coinciding with a comprehensive skatepark cleanup/repair by the Parks folks. The skatepark was closed for 1-week, PARD staff power washed with a cleaner/degreaser and repaired any surface cracks with a hybridized Portland cement product that uses an acrylic admix (Ardex or Patchcrete is recommended). Then our graffiti crew brought in a guy who usually paints warehouses to spray on the primer coat with a 5 gallon pro paint sprayer provided by PARD.

After the primer coat went down, then we used a gradient-style, blue-to-white 100% acrylic top coat that would create the water look for the Seascape. After struggling to do “detail” work with the paint in buckets, the artists and EPSA traded in the un-used gallons for cases of spray paint – their more familiar medium. When the park re-opened with the mural still unfinished, we hung a sign indicating wet paint in the bowl when the artists were working on it. Skaters complied and did not skate the big bowl while it was wet and it dried up pretty fast to help ease safety concerns. After several weeks, the mural was done and was not tagged for over a year. It still goes un-tagged for the most part, and has greatly reduced the graffiti.

Words and photos by Paul Zimmerman.