Parish Design Co. recently hosted an event titled Deck’d Out, which was an exhibition featuring skateboard decks and the art that was put upon them by talented students throughout Webster Parish.
“My wife Rachel and I started Parish Design Co. as a means to connect with young people and creative people from all walks of life in our parish. To embrace the arts, to embrace culture, to embrace locally made wares and projects. Because of my passion for skateboarding, and because we have some amazing art teachers here in Webster Parish, we decided we would get together and have a show around Christmas time called ‘Deck’d Out’ to celebrate what young people can do in our parish,” said Patrick Miller.
Miller, who owns and operates Parish Design Co. alongside his wife Rachel, was the one who got the ball rolling for this program with the help of other art teachers in Webster Parish. The inspiration for the program came from a similar exhibition he started during his time at Louisiana Tech University.
“I was a professor at Louisiana Tech University for six years as the head of graphic design. In 2012, I started an exhibition of skateboard decks called Deck the Halls. Even though I left LA Tech in 2015 to go work for General Dynamics over in Bossier City, I actually saw that they’ve continued the tradition, and it’s been going on for 10 years now,” said Miller.
His passion for skateboarding continues to this day, with Miller being on the board of a skate park that will be opening soon in Ruston, as well as helping to facilitate fundraising to develop it.
Miller was also quick to credit those who helped him bring this project to fruition, most notably Kayla Martin and Jennifer Heard.
“Arts teachers throughout the parish then helped facilitate students to be a part of the program. They work with a lot of young people who are passionate about the arts, and we thought this was a great way to showcase the work that they’re doing here in Webster Parish. We’re a big parish with a lot of creative people, so it’s great to see so many folks from every end of the parish,” said Miller. “We’re so thankful that so many creative minds could come together and do something fun for young people.”
Martin, the head of the Talented Art Program for Webster Parish Schools took some time to share her experience with Deck’d Out and the importance of avenues like this to help display young talent that may get overlooked otherwise.
“I’m within the Talented Arts Program, which students test to get into. It’s a really great way to showcase the kids who have exceptional talent. I had a small group of kids last year, and it grew so much. There are kids in our parish who don’t get any recognition, unless it’s something like this, because it’s not the sports, academics, or more common extracurricular activities,” said Martin.
“It’s been awesome to see all the little niches that they get into. I have no students that are the same. It’s really cool to see the variation of talents within these kids, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
Coordinating the students from Minden High School was the school’s arts teacher, Jennifer Heard. She spoke of her students’ enthusiasm for being able to participate in an event like this and noted that when it came to these boards, outside of some feedback here and there, that all the work was done by the students themselves.
“The kids, whenever I asked them whether they would be interested in doing skateboard decks, they all kind of lost their minds. They were obviously super stoked about it,” said Heard.
“It was fun seeing the kids really get into it, and push themselves to explore different subjects. Seeing them go from a flat piece of paper to a 3D object like the board was a lot of fun. We decided on what their plan for the board was, I was hands off completely. Everything you see up here was completely done 100% by the kids.”
Minden High School student and member of the Talented Arts Program Zoey Cox offered her experience as a young artist participating in the program.
“I just drew a heart at first, but as I progressed throughout the painting, it became more and more deep. I didn’t have a plan at first, but by the end it turned out well. I labeled it ‘Skate Through the Heartbreak’ because it’s a broken heart, and throughout the painting, I went through it.”
Miller was quick to express his thanks to an anonymous benefactor who covered a portion of the costs for the program. This, along with the costs covered by Parish Design Co., ensured that each student was supplied with a deck to work on for free.
Thirty-five student artists ended up submitting boards to be displayed, and the success of the program has led to Parish Design Co. planning other events to feature artists in the future.
“We’re looking at some other options for creative endeavors, so there’s an outlet for young creative people in Webster Parish. We really want to embrace the arts when folks are young because it’s something that can last a lifetime for them. We want to make sure that these things are cultivated within our community,” said Miller.
The boards that were submitted will be featured at Parish Design Co., located at 727 Broadway Street in Minden, throughout the weekend until next Tuesday, Dec. 13. Some of the decks are available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds going back toward the arts programs the students are involved in as well as to the student artists themselves.