Ethen Abernathy Earns Top Prize

Ethan Abernathy Earns Top Prize in Art Competition!
Posted on 01/16/2019
Article from the Chattanooga Time Free Press

Link to Newspaper Article

The art for the latest installment at the Association for Visual Arts arrived on an unusual canvas: the deck of a skateboard. Measuring 10 by 30 inches, the wheelless decks have been transformed into graphic designs by middle and high school students in support of the Chattanooga Skatepark Project, a nonprofit group working to build a new, modern skate park to replace the existing ChattTown Skate Park, which is showing its age.

"This is the first year we've partnered with AVA," says local artist Brent Sanders, the contest's organizer and a board member and director of the Chattanooga Skatepark Project. "The show has been at Comfort Skateshop for the last five years, and with its growing success we wanted to partner with AVA to help increase the exposure of the students' entries and provide them a venue for a proper exhibition." Now in its sixth year, the Skate Graphics Contest has several hundred entries per year, he says. Its goal is to recognize "the canvas of the skate culture."

Submitting the winning designs this year were Ethan Abernathy of Sale Creek High School, first place; Jada Jackson of Ooltewah High School, second place; and Kelly Hickman, also of Ooltewah High School, third place. Seventeen honorable mentions also were chosen.

Abernathy, a 17-year-old senior who hopes to pursue graphic design as a career, says he first got the idea for this year's design after submitting his entry last year. Call it an exercise in opposites. Last year's design was of "a [bubonic] plague doctor from the French 1500s on a boat transporting bodies to an island," he says. Envision a figure in a long black overcoat and birdlike beak mask. This year's design is a winged cherub from biblical tradition. "I'm really into mythology," Abernathy says, "and thought that [the cherub] would be a cool thing." He drew the stylized image of the white and gold angelic being using Prismacolor alcohol markers. It floats in a deep purple background created in paint. "I do mostly markers and pencils," he says. "Painting isn't my thing." Neither is skateboarding, but the ability to ollie and grind wasn't required to enter the contest.

Sanders says judges were drawn to the "unique creativity" of Abernathy's image "and the solid overall design concept. It really had the feel of a board that might be hanging at your local skate shop." Kreneshia Whiteside, chief curator of AVA, believes the bold designs in the exhibition are "bringing a new energy to the gallery space and [are] a great way to launch the 2019 calendar." In addition to the students' work, she says, AVA invited several of its member artists to include their own work created on skateboard decks. The exhibit will remain on view through Friday, Feb. 22.
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