In Search of…SPACE

The Eighth Street Skatepark is a vibrant hub for local skaters of all levels to gather. Its diverse collection of murals in many colours and styles is a reflection of the dynamic energy of the community. Street art is an integral part of skate culture, and Ian Gabriel’s mural ‘BeYOUtiful Energy,’ featuring a female samurai warrior and a dragon-wolf, represents the fierce power and positivity found in the local scene

Eighth Street SkatePark

Various artists
Mural | 2017-2020
160 Eighth St | Etobicoke

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Watch. Listen. Read.

Join ‘BeYOUtiful Engery’ muralist, Ian Gabriel, and fellow skater and place-maker Jay Phillips of DIY Skate Toronto, as they talk about the importance of art and community in skateboarding. Be sure to watch the video to see them flex their skills at the 8th Street Skate Park!”

In Search of… Conversation

Video Transcript:

In Search Of… SPACE

Eighth Street Skatepark Murals

Ian Gabriel: Hey, my name is Ian Gabriel, and I’m a local at 8th Street Skatepark. This is my mural. Yeah, that I did back in 2020. And yeah, what’s up. [Laughs]

When this skatepark first opened up back in, I think it was in 2010, and I just moved into the area, this was like the first place I went to. I’ve met so many people here, so many friends. Not just skaters, there’s a lot of people who walk through this park, and they enjoy watching us.

It [the mural] was huge for me because it was the first kind of like legal mural that I got the opportunity to paint, and it’s kind of like my “in” into the street-art/mural scene, you know what I mean? So it just means so much more that it’s at my home skatepark.

The wolf is supposed to resemble me, as a character. And so, you can see that the female warrior and the wolf are kind of reaching out for a ball of happiness, and that’s just kind of what this is all about, that’s what skateboarding is all about. So it’s just kind of sharing and having a sense of belonging.

Jay Phillips: Hey, my name is Jay. Pronouns they/them usually. I’m a skater and organizer in the Toronto scene. Just like how people need a dance studio, just like how artists need a canvas, you know, we need a skatepark to explore ourselves and move through our lives in the space. It’s a place that people can gather, where they feel familiar, that a culture can be born and thrive, and maybe even, like, live on beyond that.

I love DIY spaces, personally, because something about being able to move an object and recreate what you see in front of you, I think is really powerful and really refreshing. Because I find a lot of prefab skateparks or concrete skateparks, while sick, there’s a certain sterility to them, in that you can’t really – I can’t take that big concrete piece and move it over there, you know? I really like the DIY element in that it is co-constructed, it is – the community really decides how it wants to look.

Ian: The relationship between art and skate culture goes, like, very far back. There’s skate graphics on skateboards, you know, on skate wheels. It’s very much been a part of the scene for a long time. And it’s just only evolved over the course of the years.

Jay: It is just self-expression, you know? We’re all just on four wheels, but even the way our boards look – like my board looks completely different to yours, looks completely different to theirs, you know? And like, that’s an element of art.

I see something that I never thought was possible on a skateboard, that’s art.

Ian: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jay: Like, that’s it for me.

Ian: I agree. No, I 100% agree. Yeah, yeah, there’s so many different styles within, like, clothing, the way you do your movements within a trick. It’s crazy, it goes so deep.

Jay: With DIY versus concrete parks, it’s like, a concrete park is made by people who have office jobs, you know? They get salaried. Whereas a DIY spot is really like well, this dude shows up every day and he’s moving the rail over here, you know? And it’s more of a conversation, they get to engage with a spot and invest in it. I think it goes a long way to building a robust community, you know?

I guess for me, what I want to see for the future of skating in Toronto, is I want to see the lines being blurred between a street spot and a skatepark. And the lines being blurred between like, what is a spot that we’re supposed to skate and what we’re not supposed to skate.

Ian: I think I just would want it to be normalized, and I think that’s why the Olympics is kind of cool in a sense, because it is kind of normalizing it and helping that.

Jay: Yeah, helping see it as something not just vandals and hooligans do. It’s something professional that you can aspire to be.

Ian: Exactly.

Jay: Yeah.

There’s a physical aspect [to skateboarding], a communal aspect, and a spiritual aspect, personally. The physical – it just keeps me in shape, keeps my body sane. Like when I have anxiety, I just go skate it off. Community, like I have met – I meet new people every day through skating. And then the spiritual aspect of just like, no one’s going to land a kickflip for you. No one’s landing any trick for you. You have to sit down and mind, body, soul, channel that energy through frustration or whatever it may be, to land your tricks. And to me, that’s, like, really cool.

Ian: I’ve met so many different people in the community. Like another skater friend of mine who was an artist, and like that’s the person who got me into art. And if I had never met that person, I don’t think I would have ended up doing art. But I ended up meeting my friend – shoutout Corey. Yeah he showed me a bit of art and showed me that I can do this and I can skate at the same time, and how they actually are very related to each other. So it’s really – I can go on about the different ways it’s shaped me, but it just continues to shape me over the years. Right? It’s crazy.

Jay: Like, what ties us all together and makes it so approachable – like the other people – is we’re all just here because of skating, you know?

In conversation with

Ian Gabriel, Muralist & Graphic Designer

My story starts with my time as a student at Humber College, learning many new skills excelling in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Premiere. During that same time, in search of my own personal self identity I also began my journey as an Urban Artist, self taught I had gained strong skills in painting, character designing, lettering and much more.

Continuing my years full of passion to grow, with a keen eye for creative/ visual design and aesthetics, I’ve continued to try and push my career as a professional artist & designer over the last 8 years. I value family, sustainability, self love and hope that I may one day be able to transfer my knowledge to the next generation.

Jay Phillips, Founder of DIY Skate Toronto

Jay Phillips (she/her) aka pothound, is a queer, trans, Scarborough born, Trinidadian raised Space Maker, Producer, Skater, DJ, and Sound Nerd living in Toronto. An organizer in the skate community, Jay is involved through Christie Pit’s Grrrl’s skate and their own event, DIY Skate TO. They can be found across the few skateparks Toronto calls its own.

In Search Of… Prompts

How do you think the murals have transformed this skatepark?

Do you believe that murals or public art can change neighbourhoods? How?

What impact does diversity and representation within the murals have on your feelings of belonging at the skatepark?

A skatepark is a free, outdoor, youth-centred public space. Can you think of other places that youth can hang out that are free and welcoming to youth?

Thank you to our funders and partners

In Search Of… received grant funding as a part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022, a year-long celebration of Toronto’s exceptional public art collection and the creative community behind it. Working closely with artists and Toronto’s arts institutions, ArtworxTO will deliver major public art projects and commissions, citywide, from fall 2021 to fall 2022. Supporting local artists and new artworks that reflect Toronto’s diversity, ArtworxTO is creating more opportunities for citizens to engage with art in their everyday lives. This September, the City of Toronto invites the public to discover creativity and community–everywhere. Visit for full details.

In Search Of… is a Signature Project of Cultural Hotspot produced in partnership with the City of Toronto.