Locally produced skate film puts Asheville on the map

The coolest cities and towns across America have their own skate videos. L.A. has a bunch, New York, Raleigh, Richmond and, hooray, now Asheville has one, too! This thanks to the PUSH Skateshop & Gallery skate team, and to videographer Ramon Hess, who edited nearly three-years worth of footage down to the 40 entertaining minutes of the (appropriately titled) film PUSH.

A small percentage of the clips were shot in Raleigh, but for the most part, all the action occurs in Asheville. This is not a movie geared towards tourists and, for that reason, it’s probably one of the better representations of Asheville that I’ve seen. In PUSH, the city serves as a backdrop that offers ledges, parking lots, benches, railings, stairways and tunnels for 15 local skaters as they glide through the urban landscape.

The clatter of board and wheels hitting pavement accompanies a diverse soundtrack that includes original piano music by Andrew Fletcher and bands like The Rolling Stones, King Kahn and the Shrines and Neutral Milk Hotel. The timeless quality and low-fi aspect of skateboarding is emphasized with sporadic Super 8 clips of Asheville’s rural surroundings. This is a testament that to be human is to have a good time and take risks along the way.

There are no interviews, commentaries or voice-overs to detract from the video montage — just raw skate footage, shot primarily with a fisheye lens, offering a glimpse of Asheville you may not have seen. When watching the movie, I frequently asked myself, “Where is that place?” only to realize later it was a familiar alley or street I’ve walked down hundreds of times. The footage will make you feel like you’re flying, and every now and then you’ll gasp in amazement at some of the tricks.

Be sure to swing by PUSH Skateboard Shop and Gallery on your next venture downtown and grab the DVD of PUSH, which includes fun extras like a slideshow of Mike Belleme’s black-and-white photography. PUSH is the only place in town at the moment where you can buy the DVD (or inquire online at pushtoyproject.com). Thanks to these gentlemen, Asheville is now on the map, at least in the skate world (and what else matters, right?).

While you’re at it, step into the back gallery of the skate shop to see the work of Athens artist, David Hale. His drawings and paintings echo his passion for tattooing and are inspired by the natural world. The work displays a highly personal folklore is on display here that involves intensely detailed animal characters, symbols and narratives. The dearth of color affirms the sophistication of the drawings. “This work is about our longing for connection, to all things, and our beautiful ability to do just that, in every moment,” reads Hale’s artist statement.

Installed throughout the gallery are wooden birds that Hale built out of old skateboards. On each he has painted designs that resemble a hybrid of Aleutian art and Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. An array of large and small winged creatures perch on the wall that Hale has garlanded with drawings and spray paint. Even all the little red “sold” dots contribute to the installation’s overall gestalt, and it’s a good thing because there are a lot of them.

“Birdsong” by David Hale will be on display at PUSH Skate Shop and Gallery through Jan. 31.

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