Skateboards offer blank canvas for incarcerated artists at Avenal

People in a large open market.
Photos of inmates painting skateboards can be seen in the lower left during the auction of 14 of the boards.

By Lt. Mike Tuntakit

A Fresno-based non-profit organization is using skateboards their way to reach disadvantaged youth.

Rodney Rodriguez is an avid skateboarder who has been skateboarding for more than three decades. He says he found it difficult to afford new skateboards and often had to resort to finding damaged boards to fuel his passion for the sport he credits with saving his life as well as changing his world view for others, according to his website.

Fresno Skateboard Salvage’s purpose is to pass this passion onto neighboring kids who were just like Rodriguez — kids who want to get involved in skateboarding but can’t afford it. Fresno Skateboard Salvage, a non-profit organization, allows them to pursue their passion of skateboarding.

Recently, the organization worked with Avenal State Prison to allow 14 incarcerated artists a chance to show off their skills using skateboards as the canvas.

“This came through my work in a way, because I drive a truck, I drive by the prisons in the west valley, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many talented individuals were in there that might want to help,” Rodriguez told Fresno news station KPGE.

The boards designed by inmates were offered for auction. Some of the inmates’ families and Avenal prison staff showed up to the event, held at Fresno’s Gazebo Garden. The skateboard auction raised $4,500.

The skateboard art pieces raised money but more importantly, raised the hope of incarcerated men, proving to them they can still make a difference even behind the walls, according to organizers.

The Fresno Skateboard Salvage program has been featured in several local valley news publications and shows. Learn more about the program (website may not open on a CDCR computer).

Man holds a skateboard featuring patriotic artwork by an inmate artist.
A patriotic-themed skate board got a thumbs-up from this enthusiastic auction attendee.