Last week, Mike Munson performed new music based on improvisation sessions at Winona’s Anthem Skatepark and Board Shop. An exhibit of photographs by fellow Winonans Brianna Haupt and Teddy Wieczorek accompanied the music.
by CHRIS ROGERS
Like flat-nosed skateboards, Teddy Wieczorek’s Polaroid Big Shot camera is oddly shaped, obsolete, and somehow cool. He screwed a flash cube onto its long snout, peered down the periscope-like viewfinder, and clicked the shutter. Developing the film involves pulling on multiple tabs and peel-away strips. The flash blinds its subject for a couple minutes, by which time the photo is ready.
The walls of the downtown Winona art gallery and events space Outpost are covered with these Polaroids and with film photos snapped at Anthem Skatepark and Board Shop: skaters waiting to drop in, people goofing around in the shop, a kid in a whole-body pumpkin costume tapping a quarter pipe’s coping. “Our vision was to capture authentic moments,” Wieczorek explained as he set up the photo exhibit he and Brianna Haupt produced to accompany a performance of skatepark-inspired music by Winona guitarist Mike Munson last week. Sometimes skateboarding is depicted as being one big party, Wieczorek said. “There’s this idea that it’s going to be a wild, raging time. It’s not like that,” he said.
Wieczorek grew up skating in the 1980s. “I wasn’t into team sports,” he said. “At the time, it seemed like adults could suck the fun out of everything, so that’s why I got into skateboarding.” At a certain age, Wieczorek said, “People were just like, ‘Time to grow up, and move on.’ It was definitely like this is something kids do.” So Wieczorek did move on. He tried other, supposedly more adult activities, such as cycling, but he became bored with them. Eventually Wieczorek came back to skateboarding. “I guess I didn’t care so much about what people thought I was doing. I just knew it was something I loved and could keep me active,” he explained.
“We also talked about trying to capture relationships,” Haupt said of their photographs. People spend a lot of time at Anthem just to hang out, not necessarily to skate the whole time, Haupt continued. “There’s a real Winona’s-living-room feel to it,” she stated. Everyone knows each other at Anthem, people are welcoming, and when a Tuesday regular doesn’t show up, everyone notices, she stated. Sometimes, Haupt said, when parents show up to pick up their child or teen and she mentions that everyone at the park thinks their kid is pretty cool, some parents do a double take. “Huh, really? My kid?” Haupt recalled.
Broken and scuffed up skate decks were artfully arranged around the gallery last Friday when Munson got atop a grind-box-turned-makeshift-stage and performed new music he had developed through weeks of improvisation sessions at Anthem this fall. Munson is known for playing Delta blues, but this project — titled “Winona Anthems” — was something totally different and purely instrumental. At first, his opening tune sounded like it could score the opening credits for an ominous Western, then it turned brightly hopeful. Occasionally Munson’s playing built up to thrashing power cords. The next moment, he leaned back on leisurely whole notes, like a skater just rolling for a second.
It had been 15 years since Munson was on a skateboard, but when he first started showing up at Anthem to prepare for the project, he found he couldn’t resist. “It was just so tempting,” he said. For a few weeks, Munson forgot about playing music. “I just became totally obsessed with skating very poorly everyday,” he stated.
Munson described the whole experience as renewing. He confessed to the crowd that after so many shows at bars and different venues around the region, he had started to daydream during performances. He’d be up on stage, playing and singing but thinking about something else entirely. This project was a chance to just play. In the same way that writers free write, Munson sat down and just played whatever came to his mind. Later he condensed those hours of improvisations into an hour-long piece. “I just went in trying to clear my head and play music, not songs,” he said. “I’m really surprised how musical and interesting some of the ideas are,” he added.
Munson won’t be launching a career as a pro skater anytime soon, but he said skateboarding taught him a few things about music. If someone is daydreaming about other things while skateboarding, they are probably going to fall, he stated. It reminded him of the importance of practice and of the endlessly creative uses humans can come up with for a little hunk of wood and metal.
In an interview, Munson talked about the skate-inspired art show elevating what might not normally be thought of as high-brow art. After the performance, Anthem regular Jakob Keith said of the show, “It kind of puts the skating thing on the map.” Fellow skater Cole Scheck added, “Nobody does anything like this. I’ve been skating for 16 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Wieczorek and Haupt’s photographs are on display on Fridays from 3-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Outpost, 119 East Third Street, in Winona.