United States Air Force feature, 2017

United States Air Force feature, 2017

A unique program that allows Air Force youths to express themselves through art is visiting 10 installations this summer.

“Inspiration in Motion,” sponsored by the Air Force Services Activity, is an instructive art program where children ages 6-18 color and design a skateboard deck.  

“This program helps build resiliency and allows Air Force youth to express themselves in a positive and interactive environment,” said Jon Grammer, AFSVA director of programs.

Mark Rivard, a professional artist and educator based in Minneapolis, conducted a seminar at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in 2016 that became the model for “Inspiration in Motion.” This year he is conducting 2-day seminars on 10 Air Force installations where kids decorate skateboard decks using markers and templates.

The tour started in July at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, with resounding success.

“Mark was amazing,” said Kim Penhorwood, Hill AFB arts and crafts manager. “The kids loved him, and he did an excellent job interacting with them.”

“It’s really fun for the kids because they get to do something that they normally wouldn’t do,” Rivard said. “A lot of these kids come in and don’t realize they were that interested in art. Usually, it’s a friend who was doing the program and the idea of skateboarding was cool. When they see what they created, it’s awesome because these kids walk away so proud of what they made.”

 “It’s a process to complete the board, from coming up with an idea that’s visually unique and interesting to going through the motions of actually putting that vision on the board,” Rivard said. “It’s an awesome little challenge. From a readiness and resiliency standpoint, just the idea you’re creating a work of art and preparing for it with a template is your readiness, and the resiliency is actually finishing the project. It can be frustrating because it’s not an easy thing to do. A lot of times with art, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop that skill. It takes a certain amount of confidence to believe in yourself to create something you’re proud of.”

Rivard, who has no formal art training, also shares his unique story of readiness and resiliency to the kids at different installations. Growing up, his passions were skateboarding and skiing, and he aspired to be a professional skier. He was a self-described ski bum living in Colorado until he suffered a horrific knee injury and moved back to Minnesota.

As he was healing, he discovered a new passion for art when he drew the Minneapolis skyline on a skateboard.  From there, his passion blossomed into a career as an artist, educator and motivational speaker.

Rivard, who has visited various school around the world, said kids are the same, no matter where they live.

“They all kind of have their youthful energy that is inspiring to be around,” Rivard said, “… once you get them in the mode of being creative, everyone just sort of tunes into that and there’s no stopping them.”

Remaining stops on the “Inspiration in Motion” tour are Mountain Home AFB, Idaho later this month, and Luke AFB, Arizona; Travis AFB, California; Joint Base MacGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Laughlin AFB, Texas in September.

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