This story was corrected Oct. 24. An explanation appears at the end of the story.
One Temple Hills resident has taken what could have been a “concrete jungle” of a skate park at Cosca Regional Park and turned it into a mural garden — all to show how skateboarding and graffiti art can come together to benefit the Clinton community.
Shaymar Higgs, 27, an artist and skateboarder himself, spearheaded the effort to have a skate park built in Clinton. The space opened at Cosca Regional Park last May, but what makes it unique, parents and youth say, is the 16 mural panels painted by students as well as local and international graffiti artists that Higgs recruited.
“I think the art attracts people to come. It’s bright and nice, instead of a dull park with no pictures,” said Anthony Aiden, 12, of Clinton. “He’s done a great job of attracting visitors to come skate at the park.”
There’s Higgs’s “power fist” panel, a fist rising from the grass like a tree that he accented with spray paint doilies.
A bright yellow giraffe stretches into a cloudy blue sky, a mural painted by Maryland-based vinyl toy artist Paula Ibey.
And on the back wall of a ramp, nicknamed the “illegal” wall, there’s a black-and-white graffiti artist with the word “Cosca” painted in rainbow lettering, a mural created by artists Kanser and Who.
“Art’s transformative,” Higgs said. “If there was no art in this space, it would just be a concrete jungle.”
Higgs, who manages the skate park, said skateboarding and graffiti art both have community cultures — experienced skaters and artists offer advice to their proteges.
Giving youth a safe space to enjoy both legally is extremely important, Higgs said.
“I think that’s why graffiti art and skateboarding go hand in hand,” Higgs said. “I wanted to make that system available for Prince George’s County.”
La-Juan Lester, an area specialist for Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, said she has seen this community culture herself at the skate park.
“I’ve seen kids come in on their skateboards not knowing anyone, but they leave with friends,” Lester said. “They all help each other, respect each other.”
On the first day of his skateboarding class, which concludes Saturday with a celebration at the park, Higgs said students asked him about the murals. When graffiti artists visited the park, they signed the grip tape on the students’ skateboards, Higgs said.
Anthony’s brother, Aiden, 9, said he aspires to create murals like the ones he sees at the skate park.
“I like drawing, so most likely when I grow up I’ll do the same thing,” Aiden said.
Lester said she was concerned the panels would be vandalized, but she said there has been an “overwhelming respect for the skate park and the art.”
“I’ve always known graffiti to be something it isn’t, so it wasn’t until I was introduced to the art of graffiti by Shaymar I learned it wasn’t negative,” Lester said. “It’s an expression of the artist in a different style.”
The panels will be refreshed every four months with art created by new and returning artists, Higgs said.
“It’s not graffiti art. It’s great art,” said Anthony and Aiden’s mother, Guildette Williams, 47. “It’s just wonderful.”
Correction:The story initially had the incorrect date for the last day of the skateboarding class.