Since I migrated to the States six years ago, Baltimore has given me a state of flow, whether it be indie art or skateboarding. Being a part of both skateboarding and music communities, I have noticed the potential of multi-purpose spaces, especially non-traditional DIY venues. In a variety of cities, commercial development of urban spaces homogenizes and consumes, effectuating the accumulation and decay of unused space. In Baltimore, a DIY practice is a way for creative communities to push back against spatial homogeneity and capitalism; it’s a way to practice spatial diversification and this informal process has been reproduced, transferred, and utilized from generation to generation.
From my own perspective, DIY skateboarding has been a great motivation and unifying factor in a number of independent events and projects, convincing small groups to utilize spaces seen by most others as a wasteland.
When Zika Farm started in 2016, the people who were involved in this project had witnessed two other DIY spots, Shrimptown and Bell Foundry, being torn down. The group of skaters assembled in Baltimore call themselves “Farmers” and they have been building various features ever since: shapes of concrete and metal filled with cinder blocks, rocks, empty beer cans, waste, and dirt. Now the Zika Farm has evolved into more than a skate spot. It hosts music shows, late night DJ sets, [art] farmers’ markets, and invites artists to paint or install their work. It is a place for people to create and practice what we call “having fun.”
The first event at Zika Farm this year was the skateboard contest, Zeakness. The name was inspired by Baltimore’s famous American thoroughbred horse race, the Preakness Stakes. Held on May 27, the focal point of Zeakness was the wooden Mega Ramp that had been built (it took less than two days) for one of the event categories.
Many skaters were eager to climb up to the top of the ramp to experience the excitement of skating this enormous feature. Regardless of success or failure, everyone on the scene cheered for them as long as they dared to try. Surrounded by the vibe of this unconventional skateboarding contest, “competition” was not the focus, but whether you enjoyed it and experienced all the fun the DIY space brings.
Photos by Brad Ziegler and Josh Sinn.