It might be some of the tastiest-looking concrete you’ve ever seen.
The breakfast-themed Bacon and Eggs skatepark was finally unveiled to the public a few weeks ago in Wilkeson.
The 3,600-square foot skatepark / pop-art installation features two sunny-side up eggs, a 30-foot piece of bacon, and of course the pan itself, which provides a circular rim for skaters to ride and grind.
The park was imagined by Wilkeson artist John Hillding, and built by Grindline Skateparks, Hillding’s son Emil Hillding and other volunteers.
Though it’s skateable, the park isn’t finished yet. New groundwork will eventually connect it to the existing 2,500-square foot skatepark right next door.
SIZZLIN’ AND SHREDDING
The reaction so far has been “just outrageously positive,” Hillding said.
Drive through Wilkeson on a nice day, and you’re likely to catch a kid or two getting some air off the piece of bacon, or hopping from concrete egg to concrete egg.
William Partin, 14, and Micah Sharp, 10, were there on a skateboard and bicycle, respectively, enjoying the sun on a mid-April day.
William said the design of the pan lets you build up “a ton of speed” by riding across the side.
“My friend was shocked when he came here” and saw the final product, he said.
Micah said his favorite part of the park is trying to make the jump from the edge of the bacon to the handle of the pan, about six feet away.
“I come here every day,” Micah said. “I’m so happy about it. Looks pretty cool, and it’s fun to ride in. Going up the eggs is super fun, too.”
Micah said he likes how the design merges art with fun, and it’s inspired some of his own ideas for the park.
“I’ve had many ideas myself that I gave to him,” Micah said. “I’m thinking of some toast on the side with butter on it, and the butter would have a cup, which would have a bar of wax or two to wax your skateboard.”
Hillding’s full of ideas, too.
He said he’s already started drawing designs for salt and pepper shaker themed porta-potties, and joked that a giant Starbucks cup would make for a nice restroom design too – after all, “everybody uses” the famous coffee shop’s facilities.
“Even a maple bar would make a nice bench,” Hillding added.
The frying-pan exterior includes a large opening for wheelchair accessibility. Skatepark users come in many shapes and sizes, Hillding said, and there are plenty of wheelchair users and amputees who can do “incredible things.”
“You can imagine a young person, who for whatever reason becomes an amputee or double amputee, but they’re not gonna let that stop them,” Hillding said.
Wilkeson Mayor Jeff Sellers said he couldn’t believe it when he saw the finished skatepark.
“Yeah, it’s pretty fantastic,” Sellers said. “I see people stopping more … and taking a look in, just, amazement.”
Sellers said he’s optimistic that, given the coming warm weather and the prospect of loosening COVID restrictions, the skatepark will be another boost for the town going into the summer. Only a week or two ago, Hillding said, a big group of skateboarders from Seattle dropped by the park to skate and then bought burgers and beer in town.
BACON’ UP AN IDEA
Hillding’s been interested in skateboarding for “forever,” so he helped connect Wilkeson with Grindline Skateparks, which designs and builds skateparks, when the town decided to build their own several years ago.
That skatepark on Carbonado South Prairie Road was finished in 2014.
As Hillding looked over the completed park, he joked to Mark Hubbard, founder of Grindline, that a part of the park looked like a piece of bacon.
Hillding asked if they could make a park around the idea. “Oh yeah,” Hubbard replied. And they were off.
Unfortunately, while Hubbard was involved with constructing the park, he never saw the final product. Hubbard, a fixture of the Pacific Northwest skateboarding and DIY scene, died in 2018.
Hillding and his friend David Danioth drew concept art of the skatepark, and Grindline designers built computer models. The frying pan is an exact replica of Hillding’s wife’s frying pan – scaled up to 50 times the size.
Hillding started raising money from locals, at first only managing to pull together around $9000 for a project he knew would cost more than four times as much. But then a town council member successfully applied for a roughly $30,000 state Recreation and Conservation grant that launched the project toward reality.
Construction started December 2020. Grindline park builder Max Holbein and Hillding’s son Emil Hillding (himself an avid skateboarder) did most of the leg work constructing the park, Hillding said, and a crew sprayed the final layer of cement around early April.
Hillding’s early designs also included a giant spatula and metal coping around the pan, but the price would have gotten out of control, he said. Still, “Grindline did an incredible job with the amount of money they had,” Hillding said.
Skateparks aren’t cheap. They cost an average of $45 per square foot to design and construct, according to publickskateparkguide.org. That means a park the size of Bacon and Eggs would typically cost around $162,000.
But the bill for the project has totaled only about $50,000, town clerk Marie Wellock said in an email.
60% of that amount came from the State recreation grant, which required Wilkeson to match about $20,000. Wilkeson achieved and exceeded that amount through raising about $17,200 in cash and receiving another $10,200 in volunteer hours by Grindline, Wellock said.
There’s still a bit of work left before the park is complete, at least in its current iteration. Hillding plans to build a pathway between the old and new skateparks using a collection of 8 inch by 8 inch concrete tiles, each dedicated with the name of a donor to the project.
The town also plans to put in new gravel in the parking lot and grass seed around the new skatepark itself.
The remaining work should altogether cost about another $1,000, which is already budgeted, Wellock said. The city budgeted up to $29,000 for the project in fiscal year 2021 and is still nearly $20,000 under budget, Wellock said, and any money left over from the project will go in to the town’s general fund.
The skatepark couldn’t have happened without the community of Wilkeson, Hillding said, including support and buy-in from the town council and volunteers who put in their own sweat and time.
LEAVING A L-EGG-ACY
Hillding grew up in Seattle but received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1966 at the Kansas City Art Institute. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1968 from the Maryland Institute College of Arts.
Hillding returned to Seattle and started making pop art, especially projects that involved designed scaled-up versions of mundane or domestic items. That work got him involved at the very beginning of Seattle’s Bumbershoot musical festival.
“I think that with these oversized or big ideas, it’s really a challenge because you don’t know until you’re done if it’s going to work out, or what it’s going to look like,” Hillding said.
During his first few years teaching at the Art Institute of Seattle, Hillding put a 40-foot inflated pencil through the window of one of his classrooms in the middle of Capitol Hill. He took it down after police informed him it was distracting drivers and causing traffic problems on the street below.
Hillding’s other accomplishments include impressing Andy Warhol and participating in the famous “Media Burn” art project in 1975. In the mid 1980s, he blew up the letters ‘E,’ ‘G’ and ‘O’ 100 feet high at the Seattle Center’s KeyArena (now the Climate Pledge Arena).
“I did the world’s largest inflatable ego,” Hillding said with a laugh, “and with this project [the skatepark], I think I now have the world’s largest ego.”
In 1972, Hillding bought the then-vacant two-story Carlson building in Wilkeson, which is now home to The Carlson Block pizzeria.
“When I bought the hotel, Wilkeson was still in the books as a ghost town,” Hillding said. “Half the houses were vacant or falling down. I bought that hotel dirt cheap. … No one had lived in it for 35 years.”
While cleaning out the broken windows and bird nests, Hillding used the building as an art studio, raised his family and taught at The Art Institute of Seattle. In the 80s, he built an indoor halfpipe for his son and his son’s friends, taking advantage of the 14-foot ceilings downstairs.
Since then, he’s built a life and continued his artwork in Wilkeson.
Reflecting on his 60-year art career, Hillding noted that many of his earlier works were about getting “the picture” – a perfect photo documenting an installation or exhibit which was temporary in nature. The picture was sometimes the only thing about the piece that lived on.
But the Bacon and Eggs skatepark is different. It’s heavy, permanent concrete, designed to take some punishment. “Who knows how long” it will last, he said.
That kind of art especially serves the public, Hillding said: It’s outdoors, easily accessible, and there’s no admission fee.
And because the design is so easily recognizable, it might inspire the next generation of Wilkeson artists to dream up their own pieces – a legacy that could live beyond even the park itself.
There are local kids who visit the park every day, Hillding said: “I just think, ‘What’s going on in their head?’ ”
“I guess I’m proud of the fact that it works with kids too,” he explained. “It’s created this fantasy, (where kids think) if I was going to do something like this, I’d do it that way. That’s so cool that little kids can think that way.”
It caused Hillding to reminisce on his time teaching art in public schools, such as the time he became upset with a fellow teacher who criticized a kid for drawing purple grass.
“I’d be pissed at the teacher,” Hillding said. “This kid can have purple grass just fine!”