The new Sooke Rotary Skatepark community mural is unveiled Tuesday.

Art in the park

New mural at Sooke Rotary Skatepark

There’s a new art display in town, and it’s not where you might expect.

About 45 kids and a handful of volunteers came together last week to redecorate two of the walls at the Sooke skatepark, under the guidance of skateboard coach and community volunteer Debbie Qayum.

“It’s for the kids — I’ve been trying to put a positive light on skateboarding, trying to break (the negative) stereotype” said Qayum.

Working with the District of Sooke, and the Capital Regional District, the project was about three years in the making.

Qayum first got the idea while helping with the skateboarding exploratory program at Journey middle school, and was tired of seeing all the “really rude stuff” that was tagged everywhere at the skatepark.

Qayum handed out surveys to about 400 people at schools and other places in the community and said 98 per cent of responses were in favour of the project.

Several sponsors came on board to help with the project, including Sooke Citizens on Patrol, Sooke RCMP and SEAPARC. The local Home Hardware also donated over $1,000 worth of paint and supplies.

There were also five prizes awarded for categories such as best art. The kids initialed their contributions and Qayum did the judging, she said.

Born on the island, Qayum has lived in East Sooke for the last 13 years and has two teenage boys whom she credits with her participation in the sport.

“My kids were interested so I said ‘let’s go for it!’ And then I end up dragging them half the time, and now I love it.”

Qayum recently started a new business called SideStep, where she will be offering group skateboarding classes as well as one-on-one instruction starting July 5 at John Stubbs Memorial school in Colwood.

Besides teaching, she has also been hard at work getting approval for a quarter-pipe ramp at the Sooke skatepark. It should be installed later this summer or early fall.